MARYVILLE — Science Hill made strides during its second season under coach Stacy Carter in 2011, but not nearly as many as Maryville.
The top-ranked Rebels scored two touchdowns in the opening 101 seconds, led 45-0 with 2:45 left in first half and coasted to a 45-7 victory in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs Friday night at Shields Stadium.
It was the 26th straight victory for the defending state champions, who host Sevier County on Friday. Sevier County defeated Dobyns-Bennett 35-28 in overtime.
It was obvious early that Maryville-Science Hill wouldn’t require an extra session. Indeed, the second half, during which the clock ran continuously, was a mere formality.
Dalton Curtis took a bubble screen pass from Patton Robinette 55 yards for a touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Four plays later, on a Science Hill 3rd-and-5 from its 31, cornerback Brandon Johns jumped a short hitch route to intercept Justin Snyder and return it 36 yards for a TD.
“I thought we needed to get off to a good start, and we did,” said Maryville coach George Quarles, who is shooting for a ninth state championship since taking over the Rebels program in 1999. “As important as our first touchdown was, I thought that pick-six was probably more important. And it just snowballed for us.”
And once again, it was evident early that Science Hill didn’t stand a snowball’s chance against a quality opponent. The Hilltoppers were in a deep hole from the get-go in a lopsided loss to Dobyns-Bennett two weeks ago and started nearly as poorly in their 34-7 first-round playoff loss at Maryville last year.
The Rebels raced to a 34-0 lead against the Hilltoppers in the first 17 minutes of that one. They led 31-0 at the same point this time around, but added two more TDs before intermission. Maryville could’ve added another score, but let the final 12 seconds of the first half run out after a 39-yard Trenton Shuler run to the Science Hill 6.
Carter knew it’d take a perfect performance — and then some — for the Hilltoppers to scare Maryville, but was nonetheless disappointed in yet another slow start against a quality opponent.
The bubble screen TD was a harmless enough-looking play.
“It was just a bubble screen and they blocked us,” Carter said. “It was simple.”
Johns’ interception for a TD came on a simple hitch near the stick.
“If you do something like that and give them any momentum whatsoever, that’s what’s gonna happen,” Carter said. “And definitely we gave them some momentum. … We dug ourselves in a hole. And also, they’re a good football team. This is probably one of the best they’ve had.”
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Robinette scored on a 46-yard run for the Rebels’ third TD. Evan Toby’s 25-yard field goal made it 24-0 with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
Robinette scored on a shotgun sweep around right end from seven yards out to help make it 31-0 with 7:29 left in the second quarter. A North Carolina commitment, Robinette was 6-of-9 passing for 116 yards and rushed three times for 54 yards the two TDs.
“He’s not a burner, but he’s run off and left most people this year,” Quarles said. “He stands in the pocket well. When he plays well, we play well; there’s just no two ways about it.”
Maryville outgained Science Hill 382-61 in the first half. The final gap was 428-212, and Science Hill scored on a 72-yard pass from Snyder to Reed Hayes with 11 seconds left in the game.
Science Hill’s offensive line did get Jahmar Adams a little daylight on many carries, but the Rebels linebackers and defensive backs displayed textbook tackling. In fact, other than Robinette and tailback Shawn Prevo (nine carries, 59 yards), the main thing that wows you about the Rebels is the soundness in their blocking, tackling and execution.
“We’ve tackled pretty well this year,” Quarles said. “Tonight, I thought we tackled really well. We play pretty fast. There’s not a whole lot of hesitation and wondering where to go.”
Adams, a senior who ran hard and kept his legs churning until the bitter end, had 14 carries for 60 yards. Snyder was 7-of-17 passing for 118 yards.
The Hilltoppers finished the season 8-4 and won their first playoff game under Carter after going 6-5 in his first season in 2010. Carter saw definite progress, even if it wasn’t easy to recall immediately after another lopsided loss to an excellent team.
“They (the Science Hill players) are moving forward; they definitely are,” Carter said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting.”