(WVLT) - Never has one county so thoroughly dominated Tennessee high school football.
Blount County powers Maryville (4A) and Alcoa (2A) have each won three consecutive state championships in their respective classifications. In fact, the Red Rebels have been 4A's preeminent program seven of the last nine seasons.
The most exciting news: they play each other every year. And when they do, county bragging rights aren't the only thing on the line; both teams know that the other is their greatest obstacle to an undefeated season.
Mere words can't convey the intensity. Nor can the results, which side heavily towards the Rebels. Maryville has won every meeting since 2000.
But almost every game has been close.
Last year the Rebels surged out to a 17-0 advantage before the Tornadoes stormed back, falling short 17-14 after failing to capitalize on late possessions.
This year, a Maryville team stacked with Division I prospects visits Alcoa. Veteran quarterback Brent Burnette, tight end Aaron Douglas -- a Tennessee commitment -- and stalwart receiver Steven Shiver lead a fiery Red Rebel offensive attack. Gone, however, are star ballcarrier Adrian "Tank" Baker and All-state receiver Tyler Maples; Baker is at Furman and Maples at Tennessee.
As always, the technical soundness of the Maryville defense gives it deceptive quickness. Seniors Tyler Clendenen and Caleb Clement anchor an experienced secondary, which should be able to devour plenty of errant throws this season thanks to the pass-rushing theatrics of seniors Todd Hollingsworth and Caleb West.
Yet if there is a team that can temper Maryville's hybrid of experience and tenacity, it is Alcoa. All-State quarterback Randall Cobb returns to call the Tornadoes' signals, and he'll have plenty of weapons to utilize. Fourth-year starting receiver Brian Sommer is on the short lists of college coaches around the Southeast, and running back Jaron Toney, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the first game of the season, provides a balanced attack.
Cobb and Sommer are also key cogs on defense, teaming with senior linemen Seth Coulter and Josh Kincannon to make things difficult for opposing offenses.
The Tornadoes are coming off a rain-saturated 21-0 conquest of Middle Tennessee foe Spring Hill in Week Zero. Alcoa scored all three touchdowns in the first half -- the dry half -- then held on for the third quarter before officials called the game due to lightning.
The Alcoa contest will be Maryville's first of the season. The Rebels last took the field in Murfreesboro, where they throttled an athletic Hillsboro team 35-10 to hoist their third consecutive title trophy. Alcoa was equally dominant in its state championship bid, sending Goodpasture out to pasture, 31-3.
Each team is a favorite to return to Middle Tennessee this December, and there would be no better way to begin yet another championship bid than to garner county supremacy.