Maryville’s headstart: School system rules favor Rebel player development

Jacob Steimer

Maryville High School has won 13 state championships in football – nine since 1998. The Rebels are the reigning 6A state champions and knocked an experienced Bearden team out in the state quarterfinals last year. So what makes them so tough to beat? “Good talent that does exactly what they ask them to do,” Bearden head football coach Brad Taylor said. But why do they execute their coach’s plan so perfectly? Part of it is that head coach George Quarles has been there for seven championships and is one of the highest regarded coaches in Tennessee. The other part is that they start developing players from elementary school and that the players already know the system inside and out by the time they are done with middle school. “Those guys have such a head start on us, it’s not even funny,” Bearden athletics director Mr. Scott Witt said. Marvyille’s advantage starts with the rules of the Blount County school system. It is easier for players to transfer schools and much easier for coaches to run development programs. In Knox County, youth football cannot be sponsored by a high school. But as Coach Taylor prepares for Friday night’s 7:30 kickoff at No. 1 Maryville, he is not complaining about the Knox County rules. “Football coaches always want to do more,” Coach Taylor said. “But at some point, I think it’s okay to let kids be kids a little bit.” Even under Knox County rules, however, there is room for youth development, as exemplified by the Farragut High School football team’s relationship with Cedar Bluff Farragut Optimist football (CBFO). Bearden’s version is Bearden Youth Sports, which has not reached the same level as its Farragut counterpart. “Bearden Youth sports tries to have the same concept as CBFO and Hardin Valley (Youth Football),” Coach Taylor said. It is more difficult for Bearden Youth to be as effective partly due to the fact that many future Bulldogs play CBFO or West Youth Football. “When kids come in, we have to start as freshmen,” Mr. Witt said. Even if kids do play in the Bearden Youth Sports system, they usually start learning Coach Taylor’s system years after Maryville players have started learning the Rebels’ system. “Bearden Youth Sports eighth grade team tries to use our terminology and base,” Coach Taylor said. Mr. Witt feels that the development program must improve before Bearden can reach its full potential. “With our student body, we ought to be excellent in athletics,” Mr. Witt said. And the Bulldogs have plenty of football claims to fame in the modern era, including a state semi-final appearance in 2007 and the development of Tennessee running back Devrin Young. But it’s fair to ask the question. Is youth player development vital to taking the next step? “It can help,” Coach Taylor said. “That would be beneficial. Is that the whole key? No.”