Bears hope Maryville showdown pays off in November

Sep. 27, 2013 @ 11:27 AM

 Back in 1993, Steve Brewer called up Brentwood Academy to set up a game.

It was the Sevier County coach’s second season in Sevierville and he wanted to show the Smoky Bears what a state championship contender looked like. Sevier County lost by nearly 40 and Brewer said it could’ve been 80.

“The very next year, we went to Brentwood Academy,” Brewer said. “They beat us 17-7, and it was 10-7 midway through the fourth quarter. They saw, ‘This is how you have to step it up.’ We just weren’t there in 1993 but we got there.”

The Bears are hoping to learn the same lessons from tonight’s clash with perennial power Maryville, winner of 13 state titles in the modern era. Both teams come to Burchfield Stadium with unblemished records and top-5 rankings in the statewide Associated Press poll.

This clash of titans isn’t about the final score on Sevier County’s new scoreboard tonight, though. It’s about November, when these two will almost certainly have to go through each other to reach the BlueCross Bowl in Cookeville.

“By the time you get to the playoffs, you want to have played different styles of teams,” said Rebels coach George Quarles. “They’re going to throw it around. They’re going to play fast. The kind of teams you play in the playoffs is them. I think it makes you better not only for the playoffs but for your district schedule.”

Quarles knows how to win these big games. He’s won nine state championships since arriving in 1999 and has an astounding career record of 197-14. Among those wins is a 41-7 win over the Bears in the 2011 playoffs. After that game, Brewer and Quarles started discussing playing each other in the regular season.

“Until somebody overcomes (Maryville), they can plan on going to the third round and that’s it,” Brewer said. “We’ve got to be able to play at that level.”

Playing with — and perhaps even beating — Maryville may not be as impossible as it seems. Simplicity may even be part of the Rebels’ success, said Sevier County quarterback Luke Manning. Everyone looks for magic against Quarles’ club. Manning remembers the Bears’ trying for something special two years ago. He said he thought his team played a great game then and still got routed.

“Maryville’s done the same basic things that they’ve done since middle school,” Manning said. “They do it to a T. They know exactly what to do, exactly where to be and they run it perfectly. I think teams come in looking to have to have a spectacular game when all you have to be is fundamentally sound.

“In the playoffs a couple years ago we tried to force things that weren’t there. We didn’t take what they gave us and you saw where that got us.”

A Bears team that has looked pretty good through four games will learn just how strong it is tonight. Then, they’ll see if the 2013 Bears are where Brewer wanted them to be 20 years ago.

“It’s a great opportunity for the young guys and the old guys to see where we’re all at,” said Bears sophomore Devante Matthews. “To see how a state championship team plays.”