Science Hill has to take a giant step forward for its second-round playoff matchup Friday at top-ranked Maryville.
But the Hilltoppers should get a big boost in the form of senior lineman Tyler Miles’ return. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Miles missed last week’s Class 6A opener against Karns after suffering a concussion against Dobyns-Bennett, and his absence left a large void.
“You could tell the difference without him,” Science Hill coach Stacy Carter said. “They stacked the box, but he still would’ve helped a lot.”
Miles doesn’t know when he suffered the concussion, even after watching the film, but was still having headaches a week later. Sitting out the playoff game was bitter medicine.
“Not getting to play in the first playoff win in a decade — that was tough,” Miles said. “It hurt not being out there, because we’ve been down so long.”
Miles has made huge strides in strength and agility since his junior season, and he was no slouch then, says 6-foot-6 senior defensive end Matt Pope.
“Last year, I remember, he used to pull a lot and come back and cut across and nail somebody,” Pope said. “I remember being that person a lot of times last year, and it’s not the best thing.”
These days, there’s even more of a toll taken for such collisions with Miles.
“He’s a lot stronger and his feet are better,” Carter said. “He’s just bigger, faster and stronger. I hope we find the right place for him to play (in college). We’ve talked to a lot of people about him.”
Miles, whose best game this season came while helping the ’Toppers rush for 467 yards and gain 607 in total offense in a win against Sullivan South, has drawn interest from VMI and William & Mary, and received a questionnaire last week from Tennessee. Science Hill offensive line coach Andrew Beck coached Volunteers center Mack Crowder and tight end Brendan Downs last year at Tennessee High.
“Having coach Beck over here has helped a lot,” Miles said. “He’s a great coach.”
Miles and Hilltoppers senior wideout Aaron Greene (29 catches, 502 yards) will get to showcase their skills in the East-West All-Star game at Carson-Newman. Miles must have felt like he was playing in an All-Star game while going against Greeneville’s Terrell Rollins in this season’s opener.
“He’s the best one I’ve gone against,” Miles said.
Two other Science Hill seniors, quarterback Justin Snyder and running back Jahmar Adams, will play in the second annual FCA All-Star game.
Snyder has helped engineer the Hilltoppers to more than 4,000 yards this season. He is 125-of-203 passing (61.6 percent) for 1,803 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Snyder also has 545 yards rushing and eight TDs on 105 carries. Snyder scrambles for big yardage occasionally, but has become effective executing the option keepers while reading defenders out of the shotgun.
“We’ve gotten a lot of yards out of that play,” Carter said. “Justin’s done that well.”
Adams has rushed 122 times for 650 yards, and he’s scored nine TDs.
“Jahmar’s a great kid and he’s had a good year for us,” Carter said.
Carter also commended senior linemen Jacob Colvin and Jeffrey Oakes, who have helped Miles pave the way for Snyder, Adams and Adams’ brother, Will, who leads the team with 716 yards on 92 carries (7.8 yards per carry).
Science Hill’s offensive line has benefited from better conditioning and a brisker pace in 2011. Ideally, the Hilltoppers want to snap the ball with rapidity similar to that of Oregon, which tires defenses quickly.
“That fast-paced stuff really wears on them,” Miles said.
Carter agrees that a speedy tempo and a snowballing surge during the course of a game go hand in hand.
“They (the offensive lineman) have liked the tempo,” Carter said. “We’ve had our best games when we get tempo and a push. … We’ve went over 4,000 yards total offense. That’s a lot of yards.”
The Hilltoppers offense isn’t expected to have much margin for error against Maryville (11-0).
The Rebels feature center Jay Guillermo, who will play in the 2012 Under Armour All-American Game. They also have ESPN RISE Elite 11 camp quarterback Patton Robinette, a Division I prospect in right tackle Brandon Guy and a talented tailback in Shawn Prevo.
Guillermo has committed to Clemson, where former Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks now works, and is rated the nation’s No. 18 center by Rivals.com. Robinette, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior who has committed to North Carolina, is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.
Maryville beat Science Hill 34-7 in the first round last year en route to the state title. If nothing else, the Hilltoppers shouldn’t have the same anxiety while making the trip for the second straight year.
Miles is just happy for a second chance — and a second-round game.
“I’m going to love being back out there,” he said.