It is impossible to talk about the playoffs in class 4A and not list the Rebels from Maryville (Tenn.) as the favorite to win every year. Since 1998 the Rebels have won the gold ball eight times in the past ten seasons. Coach George Quarles and his staff have taken seven of those teams into Murfreesboro and won the gold ball. Led by running backs Thomas Shuler, who has rushed for 792 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Buddy Jones, who has rushed for 572 yards and nine touchdowns the Rebels have had a steady ground attack all season. Junior quarterback Phillip Juhlin has also been a contributor to the aerial attack for the Rebels on their way to another undefeated regular season. In the receiving group look for Chris Jordan, 399 yards receiving and five touchdowns in the regular season, and Mason Trenda, 335 yards receiving and four touchdowns, to emerge in the Rebels goal of winning another state championship.
On defense the Rebels appear to be sound once again. The two main objectives they achieve on defense are tackling and hustling to the football. Led by senior Justin Smith, who has recorded 59 total tackle including 11 for a loss and seven sacks, the Rebels defense has gotten stronger each week. Combined with their high powered running game and passing game the Rebels seem to be hitting on all cylinders running into the playoffs.
There are several schools that would like to take their shots at the Rebels along the way including many in East Tennessee looking for some payback from year's past. One of the leading candidates in the area is the Panthers from Knoxville-Powell. The Panthers ground game and aerial attack are led by senior quarterback Kier Houston, who has thrown for 1823 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. On the ground Houston is just as dangerous. In the regular season he rushed for 845 yards and ten touchdowns. The Panthers will try to make into the third round for a rematch against region rival Maryville.
Another group of teams hoping to get to the third round to challenge the Rebels from Maryville will be either the Eagles from Rhea County or the Dragons from Clinton. Both of these teams have shown a lot of positives and strengths throughout the season. The Eagles led by Tennessee commitment Kevin Revis and Middle Tennessee commitment Josh Walker hope to open huge holes for the Eagles running game in this match up.
For the Dragons from Clinton (Tenn.) fans can expect big things from junior quarterback Darian Stone. In the regular season Stone punished a lot of teams with both his arm and his ability to make athletic plays in the running game. Stone completed the regular season with 1793 yards passing and 19 touchdowns through the air. On the ground he led the way with 826 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season. If the Eagles can contain Stone it will only help their chance for victory over the Eagles on the road.
There is one team that may have the best chance to dethrone the Maryville Rebels. The Patriots from Paris-Henry County have been rolling all season long led by quarterback Marsalis Teague, 5-10, 175 pounds and running back Dominque Allen, 6-0, 250 pounds. Teague, who has offers from several schools including Miami, Florida, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to name a few, should provide some electrifying moments in the playoffs. Allen, who recently de-committed from Tennessee, is a bruising back with great vision and open field speed. The combination of these two plus players like Lennies McFerrin and Shonte Sims should give the Patriots the best chance to knock off the Rebels from Maryville.
If there is any team that may be able to take down the Rebels before another trip to the state championship it will have to start in the Eastern part of the state. The Rebels from Maryville look ready to make a run towards their sixth straight title, but look out they may have some opposition along the way including the Patriots from Paris-Henry County.