Tesnear on run

Dobyns-Bennett’s Tylar Tesnear runs with the ball as Maryville’s D.J. Burks (1) leaps to bring him down during the first half of play at Shields Stadium.

MARYVILLE — Dobyns-Bennett pushed Maryville to the limit Friday night, coming up just short in the TSSAA Class 6A football quarterfinal.

The Indians lost 35-28 to the defending state champion Rebels, barely missing on a chance to recover an onside kick with less than two minutes to go.

From a statistical standpoint, the Indians dominated with 71-33 offensive plays and outgaining the Rebels (13-0) by over 100 yards of total offense.

“We knew these kids had the hearts of champions. We came up just a little short tonight,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Joey Christian said. “We had a great onside kick, but couldn’t make that play when we needed to. Still, I’m so proud of these kids and the effort.

“Two years ago, this thing was broke. We challenged last year’s and this year’s seniors and asked them to change the culture. That’s why we are where we are, but this still hurts.”

Senior quarterback Zane Whitson led the way for the Indians (10-3), completing 15 of 25 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown and rushing 13 times for another 69 yards. Down by two scores late in the fourth quarter, he and his teammates weren’t about to go down without a fight.

“I knew I had to give it my all. My parents and my coaches, this is what they pushed me to be,” Whitson said. “I might not have the most talent, but I promise I’m going to give you 100 percent every play. That’s what I live for, what we all live for. We came up short, but we played our guts out.”

That included Tylar Tesnear, who rushed 23 times for a game-high 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Dobyns-Bennett’s offensive line of Caleb Burleson, Aiden Neale, Zack Ferguson, Ethan Murray and Caden McNabb consistently got a good push against Maryville’s vaunted defense and the Indians dominated the time of possession battle 33:59 to 12:14.

The Dobyns-Bennett defense slowed down the Rebels’ rushing attack early and held Maryville to 92 rushing yards. However, the Rebels moved the ball through the air and made the most of their big-play opportunities.

Maryville quarterback Carson Jones completed 14 of 20 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

REBELS CHARGE AHEAD

On the game’s opening drive, Jones completed 6 of 8 passes, the last one a 9-yard touchdown to Nick Dagel.

Dobyns-Bennett answered by running straight ahead at the Rebels’ defense. Tesnear scored on a 1-yard run as the Indians tied the game at 7.

Jones hooked up with Noah Vaughn on two long pass plays the next Maryville possession. On the second one, Vaughn took a screen pass and raced 35 yards down the left side for a touchdown.

The Indians responded with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Whitson to Braden Marshall to cap off an 80-yard drive.

However, the Rebels regained momentum when Vaughn took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. With 10 seconds left in the half,, Jones and Dagel connected on their second TD, an 18-yarder to give Maryville a 28-14 lead at the break.

D-B COMES BACK

The Indians came out of the locker room determined, scoring on the opening possession of the second half. Whitson’s 44-yard completion to Hayden Sherer helped set up a 1-yard scoring run by Phillip Armitage.

Getting the ball back, Maryville threw three passes before its first running play since the first quarter. The call for an outside run resulted in a 40-yard dash for a touchdown by Parker McGill and a 35-21 lead.

D-B drove down to the Maryville 21 on the next possession before the drive stalled. However, the Indians defense stopped Maryville to give the offense another chance with a little over five minutes left in the game.

Whitson orchestrated a 99-yard drive that ended with Tesnear’s 4-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining. The Indians had a chance to recover a high-bouncing onside kick, but couldn’t come up with the ball, allowing the Rebels to run out the clock.

MORE LEADERS

Sherer was the Indians’ receiving leader with four catches for 106 yards. Marshall had five receptions for 76 yards and tight end Gage Hensley had three catches.

Linebacker Nate Whitley, who led the team in tackles, talked about the effort against Maryville and a season that saw the Indians win their second consecutive Big East Conference title and advance to the state quarterfinals for a second straight year.

“We knew they were a tough team, but they were beatable,” Whitley said. “We put it all on the field, but they got the better of us. These last two seasons have been incredible and I’ve loved playing with this team.”