COOKEVILLE – Take a bow and relax, Derek Hunt. You did it.
Hunt, a first-year head coach and not yet a 30-year-old, took over for legendary Maryville coach George Quarles in late December of 2016.
And after Maryville’s resounding 42-7 Class 6A BlueCross Bowl victory Friday night over Cane Ridge at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium, Hunt proved he’s capable of keeping the Maryville train rolling forward.
Senior quarterback Dylan Hopkins wrapped up the game’s offensive MVP award. He threw for 121 yards and a touchdown and ran for 90 yards on eight carries.
Hunt’s first season at the helm ended up with a 14-1 record – a very Quarles-esque mark. Quarles finished 250-16 with 11 state titles in 18 seasons before leaving the high school scene to coach at his alma mater, Furman University.
Maryville got its first state title since 2014 and tied Alcoa, which won a 3A title on Thursday, for the most state titles in TSSAA history with 16. Hunt won three as a quarterback at Maryville (2004-06) and has his first as a head coach after serving seven season as an assistant at Maryville.
The Rebels notched this title win essentially with one of their offensive stars being somewhat limited against Cane Ridge (13-2). Senior running back and 1,000-yard rusher Isaiah Cobb, after running for 26 yards in the first quarter, took a hit to his right knee just 2 yards from scoring. He flipped and hit the turf, writhing in the pain.
He returned to the sideline but with his helmet stowed away and his knee iced for the rest of the half.
Maryville led just 7-0 at that point, thanks to a 77-yard interception return by Byron Brown (the game's defensive MVP) in the first quarter. But the first play after Cobb’s injury, Tee Hodge scored on a 2-yard run with 10:28 left in the half.
Some 6 minutes later, Trace Parris added a 2-yard scoring run, and defensive back Michael Buchanan scored on a 7-yard fumble recovery for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Cane Ridge mustered just 89 yards of offense in the first half compared to Maryville’s 234.
Cobb returned in the third quarter and had a few nice runs before Hopkins threw an 18-yard touchdown strike to Blake Watson with 8:57 left in the third for a 35-0 lead – which started the running clock.
Will Orren, who had two interceptions in a semifinal win over Oakland, picked off a pass late in the third quarter to give him five postseason interceptions.