Reed Hayes was an elite 11 on Friday night.
In the debut of Steve Spurrier’s No. 11, which was retired shortly after he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy, Hayes led Science Hill to a 49-21 win against two-time defending state champion Greeneville at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Hayes was 14-of-24 passing for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed 18 times for 109 yards and a a touchdown.
“I’ve been telling people he was a special player,” Science Hill coach Stacy Carter said. “He can flat-out play.”
A first-year starter at quarterback who also starts in basketball and baseball — and has committed to Tennessee for the latter — the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Hayes said he felt no added pressure from his jersey number.
“Everyone was saying, ‘No. 11, I haven’t seen that in a while,’” Hayes said. “I just went out there and played like I was capable of, I guess. … We’ve got a lot of weapons, as everyone saw tonight. I just get the ball in their hands and they make the plays.”
Fellow senior Will Adams rushed 22 times for 110 yards and three TDs. His 30-yard reception on a middle screen proved to be the play of game. Science Hill led 28-21 and had 3rd-and-15 at its 15-yard line with 5:48 left in the third quarter when Adams made a couple of would-be tacklers miss to advance well beyond the first-down marker.
But Adams fumbled forward some five yards when he was hit and receiver Tre’vonn Fields picked it up and dashed 54 yards for a TD. Greeneville coach Caine Ballard said he anticipated the screen and had defenders in position.
“But (Adams) made a play, and that’s what athletes do,” Ballard said.
Ballard was also impressed with Hayes, who was 9-of-11 for 187 yards in the first half. One of the incompletions was nearly a catch after he avoided a sack, reversed field and threw it left-handed. The other incompletion in the first half was a drop.
“It was incredible wasn’t it? Brett Favre-ish? Yes,” Ballard said of the left-handed delivery. “He’s obviously a great athlete and he’s got a lot of great athletes beside of him, you know?”
Fields’ fumble recovery/score swung the momentum. Greeneville, which trailed 28-7 at halftime, had gotten within a touchdown four plays earlier when Quan Wilson field a blocked punt on one hop and returned it 54 yards for a TD.
The 6-foot-4 Fields had four catches for 62 yards, including a 20-yard TD. Sophomore Malik McGue had three catches for 93 yards, including a 65-yard TD that gave Science Hill a 20-0 lead with 8:13 left in the first half. Adams had three catches for 57 yards.
Greeneville’s Hays Culbreth caught a 49-yard TD pass from Zack Finchum on a flanker double-pass that got Greeneville on the scoreboard with 7:40 left in the first half, and Culbreth returned the second half kickoff 66 yards to set up the second score – a 17-yard run by Xzavier Good with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
Less than three minutes later, when Greeneville scored on the blocked punt, Hilltoppers fans eager for a blowout were suddenly waiting to exhale.
“We had a good plan, but the momentum shifted,” Carter said. “It shows you what momentum does. That kickoff (return) changed everything. And then we got the big play when Will fumbled the ball and Tre’vonn picked it up. That’s the only way we got it back, and that kind of flipped the game again. …
“We’ve got some problems to work on, but beating a Greeneville team 49-21 – well take it.”
Science Hill outgained Greeneville 549-215, and more than double the number of plays (84-21). Ballard must’ve have anticipated something along those lines while trying to replace 10 starters on defense and six on offense.
Greeneville went for it on 4th-and-1 at its 29 on its opening drive.
“I felt like we had to take a chance,” Ballard said. “I didn’t think we could stop them very much and we didn’t. So we had to gamble a little bit.”
Science Hill visits Elizabethton on Friday. The Cyclones open tonight at Daniel Boone.