Maryville waves flag proudly at away win

By SCOTT BARKER
August 27, 2005

ALCOA – Though Maryville trounced Alcoa 41 to 21 Friday night, tradition was the big winner in the gridiron battle between defending state champions in Blount County. Maryville High School students waved Confederate battle flags, a tradition they won’t be able to do at home games beginning this year.

Across the field, Alcoa High School students waved Rebel flags that had been ripped to shreds, a traditional form of contempt for their intracounty rivals.

Between the student bodies, on the verdant grass of Goddard Field, Tennessee’s defending 2A champs, the Alcoa Tornadoes, squared off against the defending 4A champs, the Maryville Rebels.

The game – always a marquis match-up in East Tennessee – is for bragging rights in Blount County.

The ability to wave the Confederate battle flag is a right that has been curbed this year for safety reasons at Maryville.

The Maryville Board of Education voted earlier this month to ban the flying of all flags at all home games. Alcoa doesn’t have a similar rule, so Rebel fans unfurled the banner with unabashed enthusiasm.

"Dern Tooten I’m a Rebel" was emblazoned on a flag hanging from a grandstand rail. Nearby, Eli Brooks, a 17-year-old Maryville senior, waved a flag to the cheers of the student body.

"I really wish we could do it (at home games) because of school spirit," he said after passing the flag to a pal. "It’s a tradition."

On the other side of the stadium, Josh King and Corey Kelsch, both 17-year-old Alcoa seniors, wore shredded Confederate flags like capes and carried ripped Confederate flags onto the field ahead of the Tornado team.

Earlier, in a nearby parking lot, Kelsch and King explained that they like to desecrate their rivals’ symbols.

"Maryville’s known for carrying the Rebel flag, so we rip it up," Kelsch said.

King added: "We tear ’em up and burn ’em."

Maryville fans will have to furl the flag in two weeks for the school’s first home game. Students have already figured out ways to display the flag without running afoul of school administrators.

Abbey Cruze, another 17-year-old Maryville senior, wore a flag wrapped around her waist as a skirt and tied her pigtails with Rebel flag strips. Other students wore the flag as ponchos and halter-tops, on hats and as patches on their jeans.

"No matter what," Cruze said, "we’ll find a way around it."