MARYVILLE — New coach, same result.
The Derek Hunt era at Maryville High School began with a marquee matchup between two of the best teams in the state that lived up to all the hype that surrounded it.
When the final whistle blew, though, it was the Rebels who outlasted Catholic for a 49-42 victory Friday on Jim Renfro Field.
“I would have never dreamed that my first game as head coach would have been like that,” Hunt said. “I give a whole lot of credit to Catholic. That is an outstanding football team. But I’m so proud of my guys. I told them before the game no matter what happened, and I told them right there that I love them a little bit more after that.
“That was pretty awesome. Words can’t describe that. Our kids and our coaches are special.”
The first victory of Hunt’s Maryville tenure came after a second half that saw the Rebels (1-0) and the Fighting Irish (0-1) trade blows up until the final possession.
A determined effort by Isaiah Cobb proved to be the difference in the second half, though, as the senior running back rushed for three of his four touchdowns over the final 30 minutes — including the game-winner with one minute, 29 seconds remaining — and converted a two-point conversion to lead the Rebels to victory.
Cobb finished the game with 107 yards on 19 carries in his first game as the feature back in Maryville’s offense after spending last season as a compliment to Jordan Ervin.
“He’s just a warrior,” Hunt said. “He was cramping, but he was a warrior. That’s the epitome of what a Rebel is supposed to be like. That’s what we talk about, having a Rebel mentality and all that stuff, so I’m so proud of him.”
Cobb’s biggest run, however, did not find the end zone.
On a third-and-11 deep in Catholic territory on what would be Maryville’s game-winning drive — and with senior quarterback Dylan Hopkins sidelined with a leg cramp — the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back scooped up a low snap and turned what could have been a disaster into a 17-yard gain. Three plays later, he powered into the end zone to give the Rebels a 49-42 lead.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Cobb said. “That’s always my goal.”
Sophomore running back Tee Hodge added 90 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Rebels, while sophomore wide receiver A.J. Davis hauled in six catches for 148 yards.
In his first game with the Fighting Irish, senior wide receiver DaShon Bussell put on a show, racking up 231 yards from scrimmage (86 receiving, 145 rushing) and three total touchdowns — all of which came on plays 57 yards or longer. Senior running back Joshua Brown added 122 yards and two scores on 19 carries.
For as well as they finished, though, the Rebels did not get off to a good start, falling behind 14-0 early before battling back.
Maryville had to gather itself once again at halftime following a 57-yard strike from senior quarterback Jack Sompayrac to Bussell with six seconds remaining in the first half after Hunt called two timeout to try and get the Rebels the ball back.
“Our guys fight,” Hunt said. “We’re blue collar. We talk all the time about adversity. It’s going to happen in life, and it is a life skill to bounce back when things aren’t going your way. We preach that, but when your kids actually do it, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Friday’s victory comes in the first game of what will be a gauntlet to begin the season for Maryville. The Rebels travel to Oakland, the team that eliminated them from the Class 6A playoffs a year ago, next week before matchups with county rival Alcoa and Fulton in two of the three weeks after that.
“You definitely don’t want to go to Oakland 0-1,” Hunt said. “They put us out last year, so we know how good they are. This gives us a huge boost of confidence. We’ll lick our wounds, put a game plan together and bring it all out there and see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Catholic will try and rebound when it travels to Baylor on Friday.