Maryville had her entire game plan drawn up before her first-round encounter with Science Hill in the Class 6A playoffs a year ago, but the pandemic has never let her put her strategy to the test.
A COVID-19 outbreak within the Science Hill football program has forced the Hilltoppers to forfeit, ending their season without ever having a chance to keep her alive.
Maryville and Science Hill will meet Friday at 7 p.m. inside Shields Stadium nearly 11 months after that called off fight. Much less will be at stake, but it still represents a meeting between two of the best teams in East Tennessee.
“There was a fair amount of preparation and planning going into playing them last year,” Maryville coach Derek Hunt told The Daily Times. “I would say they’re very comparable to what they were a year ago, but it’s hard to say because we haven’t faced them.
“I would say they look a lot alike, and saying that, they are very athletic, they have size, they have a good quarterback, a good running back and are physical and run towards the ball in defense. “
Science Hill goes as senior quarterback Jaxon Diamond.
Diamond completed 52.6% (30 to 57) of his passes for 380 yards and a touchdown in the Hilltoppers’ losses to Elizabethton and Powell. In Science Hill’s wins, he’s 38 for 70 (54.3%) for 610 yards and eight touchdowns, including a 212-yard and three first-half touchdown performance against William Blount last week.
“He’s got a really strong arm so he can let the guys run a bit and still throw it at them,” Hunt said. “In high school, often if a team has to shoot, they have to throw it quickly. What’s a little scary is that he’s willing to take risks, and you’d think, “That’s great, maybe we’ll get one,” but sometimes he’ll make throws that high school kids don’t. should not be able to do.
Diamond will try to shoot from the field, but Maryville’s defensive philosophy is to limit the big plays, forcing opposing teams to be patient and orchestrate methodical training on the field.
Maryville limits her opponents to 178.4 passing yards per game while also recording three interceptions.
The Rebels’ high school was bolstered by the return of junior safety Eli Hames from numerous injuries and the development of sophomore cornerback Cannon Johnson, who managed the interception against Alcoa.
The Rebels had the opportunity to add three more picks to their total against the Tornadoes in the Battle of Pistol Creek Creek two weeks ago, but lost one and two more were taken out of their hands by receivers. wide from Alcoa.
“These were key turning points in the game, and if we made those catches, the game could have spiraled out of control quickly,” said DJ Burks, senior security at Maryville. “I really wish we had gotten them, but I think they learned from them and will benefit from what happens next.”
Science Hill was considered one of the best teams on this side of the state at the start of the season, and its only losses came to teams in that same category.
Maryville has faced the Tri-Cities’ top team – either Science Hill or Dobyns-Bennett – in the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons and could do so again this season in her quest for an 18th BlueCross Bowl Championship.
“I think that will tell us where we’re at, at least under some circumstances, because I think they’re really good,” Hunt said. “In this area it’s probably them and (Dobyns-Bennett) and then everyone. We saw DB last year, and they took us to the wire. I think Science Hill is as good as it was this year.