For nearly three quarters, Ooltewah traded punches Thursday night with perennial state power and second-ranked Maryville.
But as it has so often, Maryville eventually delivered a knockout and posted a 54-34 Region 2-6A football victory that leaves the Owls on the outside looking in at the playoffs for now.
While Tee Hodge administered the body blows with a very physical running style, senior quarterback Dylan Hopkins landed the biggest haymakers for the Rebels. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Hopkins ran 12 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns and completed 15 of 20 passes for another 268 yards and three other scores.
"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my team get a big region win," Hopkins said. "It was fun spreading the ball around and seeing all our guys contribute. That first half especially was a lot of fun, just running around trying to make plays."
The teams set a blistering pace from the beginning, combining for 448 yards of offense and five touchdowns in the first quarter alone. But when Ooltewah — which trailed by just one score at halftime — was forced to punt on its first two possessions of the second half, the Rebels (7-1, 4-0) took advantage with a pair of touchdowns and put the game away.
"We knew it would be a very high-scoring game, so we were trying to put as many points on the board as we could," Owls coach Mac Bryan said. "They're so balanced and really hard to stop, and a couple of mistakes on some drives kept us from finishing like we could have, and that cost us.
"We know that if we can win one of our last two games we should be in the playoffs, and two wins could get us to third. All that matters is getting in right now, and then anything can happen."
The Owls (4-4, 2-2) finish the regular season with road games against region foes Cleveland and Maryville Heritage, both of which are currently above them in the standings.
Ooltewah's star junior running back Sincere Quinn gained 98 yards on just eight first-half carries and had a TD, but he went down late in the second quarter when he aggravated an ankle injury that has plagued him for several weeks. He did not return.
Maryville's offense was balanced as usual, rushing for 258 yards and throwing for 268. Ooltewah finished with 422 total yards as the teams combined for nearly 950. Owls junior quarterback Kyrell Sanford threw for 155 and ran for 80, accounting for four TDs.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.