An important component — right up there with having imposing talent and crafty coaching — to making the Maryville High School football machine run smoothly for decades has been what the Rebels typically don't have.
Along the way to winning 146 of its last 147 region games and earning 13 of its 17 state championships overall since 2000, Maryville rarely commits costly miscues and is especially locked in against its toughest competition.
"To beat them, you can't make any mistakes, because they sure don't," said Bradley Central veteran coach Damon Floyd, whose second-ranked Bears (2-0) host the third-ranked Rebels (2-0) in a highly anticipated Region 2-6A showdown Friday.
In last year's matchup, the Bears trailed 13-10 but appeared ready to take momentum with a long run deep into Maryville territory. A penalty brought back the big gainer, though, and the possession ended with the Rebels blocking a punt, which led to a touchdown and was followed by another Maryville score on an interception return. In the span of less than two minutes, Maryville's lead expanded from a precarious three points to a comfortable 17 on the way to its 13th straight win in the series.
"They pounce on any little mistake and make you pay for it every time," Floyd said. "I know it sounds like coaching clichés, but you really can't have turnovers or silly penalties, because they aren't going to."
Bradley Central's most recent win in the series came in 1945, although the teams didn't face one another from 1947 to 2012. Maryville has dominated the past decade, including three times in which it swept regular-season and playoff matchups, winning the 13 meetings by an average score of 41-12 and with none of those closer than 21 points.
Heading into the region opener for both, neither has been challenged so far this year as Maryville has scored an average of 58 points and the Bears have won their two games by an average margin of 27. Considering the amount of talent both teams feature, this could also be another season in which they meet again in the playoffs.
Bradley has more talent with recruiting stars by their names, led by Boo Carter, who has lived up to his hype so far, compiling 244 total offensive yards this season, including four receiving touchdowns and a 46-yard rushing score on the first play from scrimmage in last week's win over Tyner.
"Boo has brought a lot more confidence to our whole team," Floyd said. "Anybody can see how talented he is, but as a coach what has stuck out to me is that he's always telling us ways to get his teammates involved, and when one of them scores, he's the first one to congratulate them.
"Something you always noticed about Maryville was how their kids really believe that whatever the coaches call will be successful, so they play with a relentless confidence. I'm starting to see that same type trust from our guys, that whatever play we call, it's going to work. We'll need to continue having that level of trust, handle the adversity when it comes, and hopefully they will finally make a couple of mistakes that we can take advantage of for a change."
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].
AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 1
Games begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless noted
Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) at Baylor
Bledsoe County at Sale Creek
Christian Academy of Knoxville at Boyd Buchanan
Central at Marion County, 8
Chattanooga Christian at Knoxville Grace
Chattanooga Prep at Brainerd
Cleveland at Walker Valley
East Ridge at Red Bank
Franklin County at East Hamilton
Franklin Christian at Grace Academy
Hixson at Ooltewah
Jo Byrns at Whitwell, 8
Lookout Valley at Grundy County, 8
Loudon at Soddy-Daisy
Maryville at Bradley Central
McMinn Central at Polk County
Meigs County at Kingston
Notre Dame at Lakeway Christian
Republic at Howard
Rhea County at Knoxville Central
Sequoyah at Signal Mountain
Silverdale Baptist at Knoxville Webb
South Pittsburg at Copper Basin
St. Xavier (Ohio) at McCallie
Tyner at McMinn County
Watertown at Sequatchie County, 8
Creekview at Calhoun
Chattooga at Temple
Darlington at Christian Heritage
Gilmer at Murray County
Gordon Central at Coosa
Heritage at Lakeview-F.O.
North Sand Mountain (Ala.) at Dade County
Northwest Whitfield at Ringgold
Ridgeland at North Murray
Sonoraville at Dalton
Southeast Whitfield at Gordon Lee