MARYVILLE — Dobyns-Bennett pushed Maryville to the limit Friday night, coming up just short in the TSSAA Class 6A football quarterfinals.
The Indians lost 35-28 to the defending state champion Rebels after barely missing on a chance to recover an onside kick with less than two minutes to go.
From a statistical standpoint, the Indians (9-3) dominated: They ran 71 offensive plays — the Rebels (12-0) had 33 — and outgained them by over 100 yards of total offense.
“We knew these kids had the hearts of champions. We came up just a little short tonight,” D-B coach Joey Christian said. “We had a great onside kick but couldn’t make that play when we needed to. Still, I’m so proud of these kids and the effort.
“Two years ago, this thing was broke. We challenged last year’s and this year’s seniors and asked them to change the culture. That’s why we are where we are, but this still hurts.”
Senior quarterback Zane Whitson completed 15 of 25 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown and rushed 13 times for another 69 yards for the Tribe.
Down by two scores late in the fourth quarter, he and his teammates weren’t about to go down without a fight.
“I knew I had to give it my all. My parents and my coaches, this is what they pushed me to be,” Whitson said. “I might not have the most talent, but I promise I’m going to give you 100% every play. That’s what I live for, what we all live for.
“We came up short, but we played our guts out.”
Tylar Tesnear certainly did. He rushed 23 times for a game-high 141 yards and two touchdowns.
D-B’s offensive line of Caleb Burleson, Aiden Neale, Zack Ferguson, Ethan Murray and Caden McNabb consistently got a good push against Maryville’s vaunted defense and the Indians dominated the time of possession battle 33:59 to 12:14.
The Tribe defense slowed the Rebels’ rushing attack early, holding them to 92 yards on the ground.
Big plays and the Rebels’ throwing game proved to be the difference. Maryville quarterback Carson Jones completed 14 of 20 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
REBELS CHARGE AHEAD
On the game’s opening drive, Jones completed 6 of 8 passes, the last one a 9-yard touchdown to Nick Dagel.
The Tribe answered by running straight ahead at the Rebels’ defense. Tesnear scored on a 1-yard run for a 7-7 tie.
The next Maryville possession saw Jones hook up with Noah Vaughn on two long pass plays. On the second, Vaughn took a screen pass and raced 35 yards down the left side for a score.
The Indians again responded, this time with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Whitson to Braden Marshall that capped an 80-yard drive.
The Rebels immediately regained momentum when Vaughn took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Then with 10 seconds left in the half, Jones and Dagel connected on their second TD, an 18-yarder that gave Maryville a 28-14 lead at the break.
D-B COMES BACK
The Indians came out of the locker room determined and scored on the opening possession of the second half. Whitson’s 44-yard completion to Hayden Sherer helped set up a 1-yard scoring run by Phillip Armitage.
Maryville followed with three passes before going to the ground for the first time since the first quarter. The call for an outside run resulted in a 40-yard TD dash by Parker McGill and a 35-21 Rebels lead.
D-B drove to the Maryville 21-yard line on the next possession before the drive stalled, but the Indians’ defense stepped up and stopped Maryville, giving the offense another chance with a little over five minutes left in the game.
Whitson orchestrated a 99-yard drive capped by Tesnear’s 4-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining.
The Indians had a chance to recover a high-bouncing onside kick but couldn’t come up with the ball, and the Rebels ran out the clock.
Sherer was D-B’s receiving leader with four catches for 106 yards. Marshall had five receptions for 76 yards and tight end Gage Hensley had three catches.
After winning a second consecutive Big East Conference title and advancing to the state quarterfinals for a second straight year, it wasn’t how the Indians wanted to see their season end. But linebacker Nate Whitley, who led the team in tackles, takes away good memories from the year.
“We knew they were a tough team, but they were beatable,” Whitley said. “We put it all on the field, but they got the better of us. These last two seasons have been incredible and I’ve loved playing with this team.”