Although its football season ended with a disappointing thud, Maplewood still had a lot of highlights and reasons to celebrate in its 11-4 season.
Carrying a seven-game winning streak into the Saturday’s TSSAA Class 4A championship game, the Panthers lost 37-0 to top-ranked Greeneville.
It was the first time Maplewood had been shut out since a 24-0 loss at MBA in Week 2 of last year. It also was the second straight year the Green Devils eliminated the Panthers. Last season’s meeting was in the semifinals.
“We had some ups and downs early on,” coach Arcentae Broome said. “Our offense started as our strong point, then our defense stepped up big when the playoffs started.”
Last week Maplewood reveled in the fact that one of its players, Ladarius Vanlier, was a finalist for Mr. Football and that lineman Dustin Binkley won the prestigious Hume Award.
Then the game started. Greeneville scored the first three times it had the ball and built a 21-0 halftime lead.
“I’m not saying that anything we could have tried or could have done would have made any difference,” Broome said. “Nothing they did surprised us. Our linemen just couldn’t get off their blocks and left too much pressure on our linebackers to make plays. They would lull us to sleep, then hit us with a big pass play.”
Vanlier finished a great senior season — and his career — with 71 yards on 18 carries. That gave him 2,290 yards, with 24 touchdowns in 2011.
New pants and jerseys
A few hours before opening kickoff, the players were surprised with brand new pants and jerseys from a donor who didn’t wish to be identified.
“It was a great, receiving the new uniforms, our old ones were almost in shreds and dingy looking,” Broome said. “It is something which gives us more of a sense of pride and giving the program more of a belief that we belong with some of the upper echelon programs.
“Once we start hitting the weight room even harder than before, we should be even better next season.’’
Summing up the 2011 season, Broome said, “We beat Hunters Lane early, then our schedule picked up. With the loss to Brentwood Academy and Riverdale, you look up and we’re 2-2. The Brentwood Academy and Riverdale offense lines were a lot like Greeneville, they were really physical. We had trouble with teams that were really big in the line.
“After we lost to Pearl-Cohn, we beat a very good CPA team late in the season and handed them their first loss. After that, our season took off, and our defense in the playoffs made us a really complete team.”
• Hoops heats up: High school basketball is in full swing, and East Literature is one of the teams ready to make a big push again after an appearances in the state tournament semifinals last March.
The Eagles (3-0) look like they will be in the mix again after a home 76-66 district opener win over Maplewood last Friday, although the Panthers were without some players still competing in football.
“So far, we’re going in the right direction,” coach Jim Fey said. “Nick Drake [a team-high 21 points against Maplewood] and Bobby Scott along with Chris Willingham have all played well.
“We’ve had five different kids score at least 15 points in a game. Another one is Narian Allen, a senior, who is doing a lot of things to help us, like defense, rebounding, doing a lot of positive things.”
The Eagles go on the road this week for two tough tests, Tuesday at Pearl-Cohn then Friday at district favorite CPA.
“Everyone has picked CPA to win the district,” he said. “But we don’t play on paper. There are a lot of good teams in this district. Certainly, CPA is very good. Teams like Whites Creek, Pearl-Cohn and Maplewood, when they get Kenny Robertson and their football players back, are very capable.”
East Lit will again host its Christmas Classic Dec. 19-21.
Also, the District 12-AAA boys race looks like a good two-way battle brewing between McGavock and Hunters Lane.
Both won their district openers last Friday. Ladareas Palmer poured in a game-high 28 as McGavock (4-1, 1-0) stormed past Cane Ridge. Billy Hughes tallied 19 as Hunters Lane (5-1, 1-0) toppled Overton 63-47.
The teams don’t meet until Jan. 13 at McGavock. Their second meeting is the final regular season game, Feb. 10 at Hunters Lane.
• East West Classic: The final prep football game of the season — the Toyota East-West All-Star Game — will be noon (CST) Saturday at Carson-Newman.
A lot of the top area players will particpate, including, quarterback C.J. Beathard of Battle Ground Academy (an Ole Miss commitment), Maplewood’s Vanlier and Woody Baron of Brentwood Academy (a Virginia Tech commitment). All three Mr. Football finalists will play for the West.
Brentwood High School’s Ron Crawford is head coach of the West team.