The first part was the six state championships: 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1959 and 1960. None of those was claimed under a playoff system, but it would be easy to argue the Indians could have won multiple championships on the field if they had been afforded the opportunity.
But then again, Part II might cast some doubt on that notion. In the 1974, 1976 and 1978 postseasons, it’s unlikely the state would have been shocked if the Indians brought home the gold ball. But in each of those seasons, the Indians couldn’t navigate the playoff waters with heartbreaking losses to Fulton (1974), Bradley Central (1976 semifinals), and a stunning first-round upset against Cocke County in 1978.
Part III was the Ted Wilson-Graham Clark era. The Indians fielded some mighty teams in a stretch from 1986 to 2012, knocked at the door a few times, suffered some heart-wrenching playoff losses, and kept Dobyns-Bennett football securely in its rightful Friday night place in Kingsport.
Part IV began in 2018, when Joey Christian took over as head coach. It was a tough transition year, but one thing is true: If you’re learning and growing through the pains, you’re moving forward.
That’s what Christian and the Indians did this year. They became “that team” again.
Indians fans shouldn’t get caught up in the final margin against Maryville. The 45-10 decision won’t matter when looking back other than it was a loss.
It’s important to understand the Rebels have accomplished the seemingly impossible in this day and age. With transferring no longer a rarity, and quitting so easy an option, it’s hard to be outstanding every single year. Maryville has done that, reaching the state semifinals for 20 straight years. It is something that would be tough to accomplish even if memories were erased and you could sneak up on some folks.
But Maryville carries a target — no, make that The Target — on its back every season. And every year, the Rebels are the best team from Region 1 and Region 2 combined.
So how does D-B find a way to chart a course to get past that which it seems cannot be circumvented? Well, the Indians took the first step this year. They prepared for the season and were ready to go from Week 1. They took every week in stride and let only one win slip away, against Science Hill. They restored confidence and put together a double digit-win season.
Beating Maryville is a process. D-B is not alone in the frustration of losing to the Rebels. But one day — yes, one day perhaps as soon as next year — the Rebels may not be as sharp and crisp and talented as they were the year before. It happened last year when Oakland flat-out smoked Maryville in the semifinals, 38-0.
The key thing is this: When the Rebels slip, the opponent has to be in precision position to take advantage. And the only way to do that is to always be ready.
Contact Douglas Fritz via email at [email protected]