MARYVILLE — Anyone who doubted whether Dobyns-Bennett’s football team could hang with the two-time defending state champions got their answer Friday night.
But playing with Maryville and finding a way to beat the Rebels on their home field turned out to be two different matters entirely.
Despite a couple of missed opportunities early, the Tribe stayed within a touchdown of the Rebels for most of the night behind a punishing ground attack. Time eventually ran out on the Indians, however, and Maryville pulled away for a 41-20 victory in the TSSAA Class 6A quarterfinals.
The loss marked the end of the line for a wildly successful senior class. Devaun Swafford rushed for three touchdowns in his final game as an Indian, and Malik Foreman ran for 119 yards on 20 carries.
“I just can’t say enough about a great group of seniors,” D-B coach Graham Clark said. “If you could put their work ethic into any plant in this country, that plant would be making billions of dollars.
“Hopefully some of these younger kids will learn to fight the way our older kids have. That gives you hope for next year.”
The Indians certainly had their chances at the outset. Maryville mishandled the opening kick, and D-B recovered 14 yards away from a potential touchdown. But the Indians fumbled the ball back to the Rebels on their first play from scrimmage, and Maryville made them pay when Trenton Shuler ran 86 yards to the end zone.
D-B missed another chance to capitalize in the red zone near the end of the first quarter when Swafford was stopped at the Rebels’ 11 on fourth down and the ball was marked just inches short of a first down.
“I’ve got to find us a call to get a first down,” Clark said. “We came up about 3 inches short. Two or three times, we didn’t quite get it done. But it doesn’t diminish anything.”
After D-B had a touchdown pass called back on a holding penalty, another Shuler TD run gave Maryville a 14-0 lead, leaving the Tribe to play catch up the rest of the way.
“The TD that got called back was huge,” Clark said. “We lose a fumble early — we had a chance to get some momentum going right there at the start, but our kids fought and fought.”
Despite all the missed chances, D-B trailed only 20-6 at the half and closed within a touchdown after engineering a punishing 14-play, 60-yard TD push to start the third quarter. The Tribe took nearly seven minutes off the clock and put all the pressure on a Maryville offense that was left standing around the cold sideline for quite some time.
But the Rebels responded like a championship squad, going 75 yards in three plays to push the lead back to two scores. Quarterback Nick Myers hit Shuler on a quick 53-yard pass play to cap the drive, which Maryville coach George Quarles called a pivotal moment in the contest.
“Hit a big play down the seam with Trenton,” Quarles said. “We just knew they were going to come back. So to make some plays to answer, I thought that was the key.”
The Indians rushed for 290 yards and gained 381 yards of total offense against a tough defense, but the Tribe also committed five turnovers. The final turnover came midway through the fourth quarter, setting up Maryville’s final score.
Shuler and Sean Privo spearheaded an offense that ran for 365 yards — Shuler for 166, Privo for 150. They each rushed for a touchdown and caught a TD.
Myers threw for 149 yards and three TDs, completing 6 of 9 passes.