Maryville downs Oakland, advances to state title game

Maryville defensive back Will Orren hits Oakland's Justin Jefferson and forces a fumble in the Rebels' 31-28 victory over the Patriots on Friday, Nov. 24. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Weaver)

In the span of 365 days, Maryville High School has suffered more defeats at the hands of Oakland than it had in the previous three years combined.

Last season, the Rebels’ 34-game winning streak and postseason run ended following a 23-7 defeat to the Patriots in the Class 6A semifinals. The result was not any different when they returned to Ray Hughes Stadium on Aug. 25, falling 17-14 albeit without starting quarterback Dylan Hopkins.

The third time, however, is a charm.

Junior kicker Jack Cone drilled a 40-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to punch a ticket to the state championship game with a 31-28 victory over Oakland on Friday at Shields Stadium.

“We had been looking forward to seeing Oakland again,” Maryville defensive back Will Orren said. “We knew that they were a talented bunch that had gotten better over the course of the season, and we knew it would be a good matchup. We’re just excited that it fell our way this time around.”

The Rebels will attempt to claim their 16th state championship against Cane Ridge at 8 p.m. EST on Friday in the BlueCross Bowl inside Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

Orren played a large role in clinching that spot in the title game forcing three turnovers on Oakland’s final three possessions to lead Maryville (13-1) to victory.

The first, a forced fumble that the Rebels recovered deep in Oakland (13-1) territory, proved to be inconsequential following a Hopkins interception moments later, but the senior backed his quarterback up by intercepting a Brevin Linnell pass to set up Maryville’s game-winning drive.

He sealed the win by picking off Linnell again on the Patriots’ last-second Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game. Orren has now forced five turnovers this postseason.

“We finally figured them out in the fourth quarter, and I was lucky enough to be in some spots to make some plays,” Orren said.

“He has a nose for the ball and he’s kind of our mojo on defense,” Maryville head coach Derek Hunt added. “He’s made big plays this postseason, and you know what they say, big time players make plays in big time games, and Will has certainly made them.”

Maryville still had to capitalize on the chances Orren gave them, and on its game-winning drive it executed perfectly.

On the third play of the drive the Rebels faced third-and-long, but Hopkins connected with junior wide receiver AJ Davis to keep the drive alive.

Moments later, they faced a fourth-and-four just outside of field goal range. Hopkins fired a pass into the flat for senior running back Isaiah Cobb, who was met immediately, but wriggled away and pick up just enough for a first down.

“I knew how big that drive was, so I knew I had to keep it alive for the team,” Cobb said. “(The defender) kind of surprised me a bit, but my Lord and Savior blessed me with some talents to make a play.”

It was the last first down the Rebels would pick up, but it was enough to set up Cone for the game-winning kick, providing some redemption after he missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter against Oakland earlier this season.

“I have to thank my team for even putting me in that position,” Cone said. “It was obviously a stressful situation, but that’s my one job and I didn’t want to let my team down.”

The Rebels now shift their focus to Cookeville, looking to avoid the program’s first three-year drought since it went 20 years between state championships from 1978 to 1998.

“We’re going to strap it on next week and give it our all,” Hunt said. “We’re not going down there for second, that’s for sure.”

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