Cleveland (3-3) at Maryville (5-1) Preview

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Cleveland (3-3) at Maryville (5-1) Preview

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This Cleveland High football season has felt similar to a roller coaster ride at your local theme park.

The first game of the season was cancelled after one quarter due to rain.

The team was a few missed tackles away from knocking off the third-ranked team in the state.

After they got manhandled by Bradley Central, Coach Cummings put a stop to the nonsense and took a big step towards fixing a locker room problem that wasn’t getting better.

But the Blue Raiders have fought back with two straight wins by sizable margins. They won their last two games by scores of 43-0 and 55-7, respectively.

This, though, is a beast they haven’t faced before. To many, Maryville is the top team in the state. The toughest team on the Blue Raiders schedule all year.

But don’t get it twisted…this is no David and Goliath game. Cleveland is loaded with talent… and they just may show it this week at Maryville.



Last week, the Cleveland offense started really slow. They put up a goose egg after a quarter against a greatly inferior Heritage football team. They ended up putting up 55 in the remaining 36 minutes of game time, but they can’t afford to start slow this week against a team like Maryville. Jackson Moore is going to have to play the best game of his career on Thursday. This means not taking a sack when he can throw it away, don’t take any chances throwing the ball into tight coverage on early downs, getting every snap clean, etc. He certainly has the talent to do so, and if Moore is on his game tonight, the Blue Raiders will have a better chance to win the game.

X-Factor: Alex Williams, OG: In terms of recognition for his role in the Blue Raider offense, Williams might be the most under appreciated person on the team. The offense loves running inside handoffs, and it very often runs through Alex. He’s a no-nonsense kind of player. He takes no plays off, and he’s one to motivate his teammates to play with the same consistent energy he has on every play. For the Blue Raiders to succeed against the Rebels, the Raider Running Train will need to run through Williams early and often tonight. 


After decorated Rebel Dylan Hopkins graduated and moved on to UAB, juniors Braeden Carnes and Cade Chambers run a two-quarterback system for the starting job at quarterback for the Rebels this season. They’ve picked up where Hopkins left off and have the Rebels sitting nice at 5-1, with their loss coming from 3A top-ranked Alcoa. Chambers has a lot of help, though. They’ve got Tee Hodge, a player being sought out by several power 5 football schools, in the backfield with them. They’ve also got another top-tier recruit in AJ Davis as a wideout for them. If Tee Hodge gets going, and opens up the play action for the Rebels, it could be a long night for the Blue Raiders.

X-Factor: AJ Davis, WR: Davis recently visited Georgia Tech, and his offer list includes Indiana, Clemson, Central Michigan, and more Division-I schools. He’s just 5-10, but the shiftiness and agility of Davis makes him hard to stop. If he can take advantage of a mismatch on linebackers in the slot, he could have a field day with how fast he is.



Giving up 0 points and 7 points in consecutive weeks is something to brag about for sure. The defense looked greatly improved, even though it was against struggling teams. It also should have been consecutive shutouts for the Blue Raiders. A miscommunication on defense led to a 50+ yard touchdown pass for the Heritage Mountaineers, their lone score of the game. This week, David Dorsey once again will have a tall task against this Maryville high-powerd offense. Time will tell if Dorsey will lock onto Davis the entire game, or stay on one side of the field.

X-Factor: Jordan Hickey, FS: Cleveland safety Jordan Hickey misread the Heritage play call on the Heritage touchdown, and checked out of cover 2. Meanwhile, the rest of the defense remained in cover 2, and Jordan’s responsibility should have been to stick with the receiver on the deep route. But he tried jumping the out route, when it was really a go pattern, and the Heritage receiver was left wiiiiide open.. about 20 yards open, to be exact. Jordan is the first one to admit that he messed that up. He was upset with himself…but he’s a gamer. Hickey is one of the most talented players on the field no matter what team the Blue Raiders are playing, and he’s going to have to be on his game this week against a shifty, speedy Maryville team in order for the Blue Raiders to pull out a win on the road. Give Jordan a forced fumble this week that proves to be costly for the Rebel offense.


The Maryville defense only returned 5 starters from 2017, and they’ve experienced a few bumps in the road. They can’t afford to be off their game against an offense as talented as the Blue Raiders. The D-Line will have to get pressure in order to beat Cleveland, because they surely can’t catch Perez or Bowman in the open field.

X-Factor: Maryville Secondary: They’ve got a few tough tasks. Stopping Robert Flowers while also stopping Jeffrey Perez when he gets to that next level may not go hand in hand. If the secondary has a rough night, Cleveland could win by double digits.

It’s going to be a great game. Battle of two of the most talented teams in the state. Battle of storied programs… and it could be what turns the Cleveland season around.

I’ll leave you with a conversation I had with superstar cornerback David Dorsey today.

“You shadowing (AJ) Davis tonight)?”

“Yeah, I got Davis.”

“He’s shifty, man… he’s really good.”

“Yeah, but you know me! Best in the state!”

Yeah, we know you, man. We see the type of player you are.

Dorsey is confident, and he should be. He’s visiting division-I schools and finally getting some serious looks, as he should be.

I can’t make a prediction for the game because I’m completely unsure of which way it’s going to go.

But I do know this… Cleveland’s offense is more talented than the Maryville defense, and if they get going, watch out.

Go Raiders.