September 10, 2005

MARYVILLE – Because they couldn’t take Confederate battle flags into Shields Stadium on Friday night, Maryville High School fans Gary and Connie Young decided to take in everything else they could put together with the star-studded St. Andrew’s cross pattern.

They sat on a Confederate flag blanket, waved towels emblazoned with the Rebel flag and wore specially made shirts.

"Our rights have been violated," said Gary Young, who’s leading the effort to restore the former school symbol.

Last month, the Maryville Board of Education banned all flags – including the Confederate battle flag – from official school events. School authorities said no one had tried to carry a flag into the game against intra-county rival William Blount High, the Rebels’ home opener.

"We haven’t had a problem," Maryville Assistant Principal Lynn Brown said during the first quarter.

The ban doesn’t extend to clothing, and many fans wore hats, shirts and other garments with the flag pattern.

"They’re getting flags in, just in different ways," Connie Young said.

Before kickoff, she handed out 200 T-shirts and 100 towels from the back of her red Corvette. Paid for with donations, the shirts were free for the asking until they ran out.

"We’re just sorry we couldn’t get more," Gary Young said. "Our next order is probably going to be 500 or 1,000."

One of their customers was Josh Ellis, 16, a junior at Maryville High. He wore one of the Youngs’ black T-shirts with "Past and Forever" written on the back beneath a depiction of the flag. A Rebel flag towel hung from his hip pocket.

As the game got under way, Ellis said the ban dampened student enthusiasm.

"We’d have 15 or 20 flags up were, with everybody going crazy," he said. "It’d be awesome."

A group of fans tried to fly a flag from the roof of Donna’s Flowers, a shop across the street that is visible from the stadium, but 15 helium-filled balloons weren’t strong enough to keep it aloft.

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