When Greeneville last experienced a snap in a high school football game, it touched off a celebration for winning a state championship on a bitterly cold December day.
Tonight at Burley Stadium, the next snap will come with temperatures in the 80s and a whole lot less reason for celebration. Human nature suggests the Greene Devils couldn’t help but be a little vulnerable, and Science Hill aims to take full advantage of it.
“They may have a ring ceremony at halftime, I don’t know,” said Hilltoppers head coach Stacy Carter. “I don’t know if it gives us an advantage. It can work two ways. They could be high as a kite, or they could be down.”
The defending Class 4A state champions will play host to the Class 6A Hilltoppers with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
And those classification designations are not lost on Carter.
“By looking at them they have the athletes to play with anybody around here,” said Carter. “But they are two divisions smaller than us, and we’ve got to win those games. We’re Class 6A and every time we play anybody else, we should expect to win.
“But they do have a great tradition and a great football team.”
The great tradition started with a Class 4A state runner-up finish in 2009. Then Greeneville exploded to the top last year, scoring 748 points to set an all-time state record with two touchdowns to spare.
Entering 2011, Greeneville has won 24 of its last 25 games. The Greene Devils’ season win totals over the last four years — 15, 11, 11 and 10 — help make up a combined record of 47-10.
Six of those losses came against Sullivan South (three times), Daniel Boone, Tennessee High and Jefferson County. Carter was the head coach at South for all three of those wins, and his teams beat Greeneville six times in eight contests over a six-year stretch. The teams split a pair of playoff games.
“One good thing is we know their players well,” said Carter. “They run a very similar offense to us. We just need to stop the run first, and then see what happens with the pass.”
Greeneville will likely go with junior Tanner Stewart at quarterback, but sophomore Zach Finchum is available, too. That two-headed quarterback thing — something Carter said he will avoid by sticking with Justin Snyder despite having Luke Hampton available — could be a problem.
“A lot of times when you change quarterbacks, it’s not a good thing,” said Carter. “Jeremy (Jenkins) did it at Daniel Boone, but it has to mess your rhythm up a little bit.”
When Science Hill has the ball, Carter said his players must be aware of 6-0, 255-pound senior Jamel Hall, a defensive lineman. “Somebody like Jamel, you’ve got to know where he is when you have the ball,” said Carter.
Science Hill will hand the ball to a stable of running backs, including Hampton, Jahmar Adams and Will Adams. Aaron Greene is the throw-it-deep-and-get-it threat at receiver.
For Greeneville offensively, Hall will also be a factor as a running back. Other ground-game keys include Walker Troy and Xzavier Goode. Taylor Shuffler is a receiving threat who made his share of big plays last season.
Overall, Carter said his bunch is confident and ready to go.
“I really think the kids are ready,” said Carter. “Expectations are high for us this season.”