MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Maryville’s dominance over Rutherford County took another step forward Friday night.
But it wasn’t a large step.
The top-ranked Rebels defeated second-ranked Oakland 27-13 at Shields Stadium in a Class 6A state semifinal to advance to their 12th consecutive BlueCross Bowl and extend their winning streak to 44 games.
Maryville (14-0) will play Ravenwood (13-1) on Dec. 5 in the 6A championship game. It’s a rematch of last year’s title game that Maryville won 35-34 in overtime.
Maryville needed a 5-yard touchdown run from Joel Hopkins with 1:34 remaining to put the game away and improve to 7-0 against Rutherford County teams since the Rebels jumped from Class 4A to 6A in 2009. Maryville is 100-4 since then.
“We feel like we had to run the gantlet this year,” Maryville coach George Quarles said. “We had to play Warren County, who is well-coached. We played Cookeville, Blackman and Oakland.
“I don’t know many teams that are going to go through that and beat all of them. I will say playing these teams beats you up a little bit.”
Oakland (12-2) trailed 20-13 after Patriots kicker Aaron Sears booted a 21-yard field goal. On the first play of Maryville’s next possession, JaCoby Stevens picked off Dylan Hopkins and raced to the corner of the Oakland end zone. However, he was stopped short, and a block in the back moved it back to the Oakland 21 with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
“It’s about to be a tie ballgame, unless we go for two,” Oakland coach Kevin Creasy said. “They’ve never been behind all year. I thought it would be a great way to see how they would respond. More than likely, they would have responded like a state championship program. But we will never know because a guy throws a flag on the biggest play of the ballgame.
“It’s just one of those things that happens in football games. But often times in the playoffs, we see them kind of hesitate to change the game themselves. (Stevens) made a great play. He’s made those plays all year. And they throw a flag that’s insignificant.”
Oakland failed to convert a first down on the series, giving the ball back to Maryville at its own 17.
Oakland had one more chance with 7:46 left after Maryville kicker Matthew Cone’s 31-yard field goal hit the crossbar. But the Patriots were forced to punt with 4:40 left. Maryville then put the game away on Hopkins’ touchdown, his second of the game.
Maryville led 20-10 at halftime, scoring six points on two 32-yard field goals in the final 17.7 seconds.
Mr. Football finalist TD Blackmon stripped quarterback Brendan Matthews on a dive play on the Patriots’ first play after the first field goal to set up the second kick. Matthews had his helmet pulled off on the play.
“They rip his helmet off,” Creasy said. “It’s human nature to go for your helmet, your head. They had a no call there, but did recognize the fumble. Hindsight, we should have taken a knee.”
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.