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Since he started coaching at Maryville in 1999, George Quarles has won eight state championships and 93 percent of his games.
Quarles’ top-ranked Rebels (11-0) have won 25 straight games, including the 2010 state championship, to improve his record to 175-13. They’ve outgained opponents 3,519-1,091 while outscoring them 412-85 this season, and have shut out their past two opponents.
Center Jay Guillermo is a Mr. Football finalist who’s committed to Clemson. Quarterback Patton Robbinette is a Mr. Football finalist who has committed to North Carolina.
Indeed, Maryville’s reputation precedes it, and the name on the uniform alone can seem to be worth two touchdowns, which appeared to be the case when Science Hill visited the Rebels for a first-round playoff game in 2010.
Robinette ran for a 49-yard touchdown and passed for two others while helping Maryville dash to a 34-0 lead in the first 17 minutes, and it coasted to a 34-7 victory.
But all that said, Quarles doesn’t expect Science Hill (8-3) to arrive in awe when it visits Maryville for a Class 6A second-round game tonight at 7.
“I’m sure it’s gonna help them having been here before,” Quarles said. “I think maybe some teams are a little intimidated coming and playing us for the first time. I think they’ll lose some of that. They’ll be more prepared, know what to expect.”
Most would say the Hilltoppers’ chances are slim and none, and a positive state of mind is necessary for it to be the former.
“We’ve just gotta go down there and have fun,” Science Hill coach Stacy Carter said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve gotta be loose and play hard.”
The 6-foot-4 Robinette completed 75 percent of his passes while passing for 15 touchdowns and ran 55 times for 565 yards and nine TDs during the regular season. Running back Shawn Prevo has rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
“The running back’s a dandy,” Carter said.
Quarles doesn’t sound like your typical coach overstating an opponent while summarizing his impressions of three games of Science Hill film.
“On the hoof, they’re as good looking a team as we’ve seen all year, and they’ve definitely got our attention,” Quarles said. “We’re impressed with the running backs — Nos. 33 (Jahmar Adams) and 45 (Will Adams) — and the quarterback (Justin Snyder). He throws a pretty ball. He’s athletic. He can run around.
“And then the big, tall receiver out there, No. 1 (Aaron Greene), I think he’s an impressive athlete.”
Fellow receiver Reed Hayes, a junior who didn’t begin play until the fourth game of the season for Science Hill, is making strides with seemingly every snap. Hayes had four catches for 108 yards, including a game-winning 7-yard TD, in last week’s 41-32 win against Karns.
“Reed goes up and gets it well,” Carter said. “He was the difference the other night. He went up and took that ball away from that guy.”
Quarles sees a lot of progress since last year in the Hilltoppers offensive line, which will get 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior Tyler Miles back from a one-game absence due to a concussion.
“Watching their offense, I think where they’ve improved the most is up front,” Quarles said. “I think they’ve done a great job with that.”
Maryville’s defense has tallied 34 sacks. Middle linebacker Nathan Miranda, a three-year starter, is the catalyst. Cornerbacks Brandon Johns and Dalton Curtis have had exceptional seasons, and defensive end Joseph Watson leads the team in sacks. Watson recovered a Science Hill fumble at the Hilltoppers 17-yard line during the early scoring barrage last season.
“You definitely can’t give a good team stuff,” Carter said, “and people’ve been giving them stuff. Bearden fumbled two or three away.”
Carter has described Maryville as “sound as heck,” and Quarles essentially supported that statement while describing his latest edition of Rebels.
“We’re not a team of superstars,” he said. “I know we have the quarterback and the center who are Mr. Football finalists, but we’re a group of good high school players who play well together. We’re not extremely fast in any one particular area, but we play pretty quick as a team.”
Still, Science Hill’s athleticism is a concern.
“They’ve got a good team,” said Quarles, whose Rebels beat Carter’s Kurt Phillips-led Sullivan South team in the state semifinals en route to the 2007 state title. “They’ve won the games they were supposed to win and played well in others (Greeneville and Morristown West). Coach Carter’s done a great job of getting them to where they are.
“Anytime you’re playing in the second round of the playoffs, you’re playing against a good football team.”
And sometimes you’re playing against a great one.