GREENEVILLE – Greeneville doesn’t have Willie Carmichael, B.J. Spradlin and Chaz Story, but the cupboard’s hardly bare.
The Greene Devils began defense of their Class 4A state championship and undefeated 15-0 season with a 26-18 victory against Science Hill on Friday night at jam-packed Burley Stadium.
Senior Taylor Shuffler rushed for 149 yards and three TDs and junior quarterback Tanner Stewart also had 149 yards rushing and a touchdown, and the Greene Devils held on after building a 20-6 lead early in the second quarter.
“Shuffler and Tanner are tired of being in B.J. and Willie's shadow,” Greeneville coach Caine Ballard said. “They're hungry to play.”
Greeneville feasted on opponents in 2010, winning every game by double-digit margins while outscoring opponents 748-136 (average score of 50-9). It hasn’t lost since a 21-14 setback to Giles County in the 2009 championship game, and has won 25 of its last 26 overall.
But Science Hill was within a score the entire second half. The Hilltoppers trailed 26-18 and had 3rd-and-1 at their 29 with 8:02 left. But Will Adams was stopped for no gain when Greeneville defensive tackle Terrell Rollins appeared to get the key penetration.
“He (Rollins) is a beast,” Stewart said. “He’s helped this team a lot through the years.”
Science Hill went for the 4th-and-1 and Snyder appeared to have come up just short of the marker, but an obvious procedure penalty negated the play and forced the Hilltoppers to punt.
Ballard wasn’t surprised to see his counterpart, Stacy Carter, attempt to go for it on the Toppers’ end of the field with eight minutes left in a one-score game.
“I think Stacy knew that if we got the ball back, we were going to eat the clock up,” Ballard said. “I thought they would go for it. I don't know what the result would've been, but I was thankful for the penalty there.”
Greeneville started at Science Hill’s 39 after a 15-yard punt. Still, Science Hill got one more chance after Greeneville kicker Ben Ogle missed an opportunity to make it a two-score game when his 41-yard field goal attempt was wide left with 4:36 remaining.
Science Hill took over at its 20, but Greeneville’s Derrik Thornton made an interception on a tipped pass that was too high for O’Ryen Scott (Snyder’s second such interception) and the Greene Devils had possession at Science Hill’s 45 with 3:31 left. From there, they ran out the clock.
“(Greeneville is) a good football team … and a physical football team,” Carter said. “I felt like we had something going the second half, but the first half they won, and that’s the difference in the game. … We had them on the ropes.”
Science Hill had a chance to tie the score at 20 after Will Adams’ 13-yard touchdown run toward the right pylon with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. But Snyder was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt.
Greeneville’s Kelby Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff to its 33, and a face mask allowed the Greene Devils to begin the final scoring drive at their 48.
The Hilltoppers appeared to be in good shape with plenty of penetration on a 3rd-and-7 blitz, but Shuffler took the shotgun handoff and somehow scooted past unscathed and broke it up the left sideline for a 31-yard gain to the Science Hill 5. His final TD run – with 9:20 remaining – came on the ensuing play. But Greeneville botched the PAT snap exchange to keep the ’Toppers within a score.
PATs were an adventure all night. Science Hill’s first kick was blocked by Shuffler. Ogle made his first two PATs, but hit the left upright with the third.
Science Hill showed up ready. It went 80 yards in five plays on the game’s opening drive. Jahmar Adams rushed for seven and 38 yards, respectively, on the first two plays from scrimmage, and Snyder gave the Hilltoppers a 6-0 lead with a 22-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Aaron Greene.
Greeneville, still in its shotgun spread attack with a new skill set, answered with three straight TD drives. The first one covered 80 yards in nine plays. Shuffler capped it with a 4-yard run.
Shuffler’s 2-yard run made it 14-6 with 3:29 left in the first quarter, and Stewart ran straight up the middle through some suspect tackling for an 11-yard score that made it 20-6 with 9:29 left in the first half.
“Bad tackling for us,” Carter said. “That was the thing: bad tackling first half. We did a lot better in the second half, but just ran out of time.”
Greeneville drove to Science Hill’s 35 on its fourth drive, but linebacker Grant Janeway dropped Shuffler for a 7-yard loss to force the Greene Devils’ first punt with 3:30 left in the first half.
Stewart said the Greene Devils were dealing with the odd mix of having something to prove while following in the footsteps of last year’s seniors and the pressure of football-crazed town expecting Greeneville to run the table again.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Stewart said. “A lot of people were really skeptical about that. It’s a new year. We’ve got to forget the past and move on. Science Hill has a great coach and a great team, and they’re gonna have a good season.”
Will Adams scored from a yard out on fourth down to make the score 20-12 at halftime. Adams’ conversion run failed.
The drive began after Izzi McKenzie intercepted Stewart at the Greene Devils 15 and returned it 22 yards to the Science Hill 37 with 2:21 left in the half. On the ensuing play, Snyder connected with Greene on a 43-yard pass to the Greeneville 20. Greene extended to grab a difficult catch on a good deep throw into pretty good coverage.
One play later, Snyder helped set up Adams’ fourth-down score with a 14-yard run to the Greene Devils’ 5.
Jahmar Adams had 11 carries for 65 yards for Science Hill. Will Adams had nine carries for 33 yards. Snyder rushed for 43 yards on seven attempts, and was 9-of-15 passing for 127 yards and a TD.
Greeneville outgained Science Hill 346 to 273. All but four of Greeneville’s yards were gained on the ground.
Ballard wasn’t surprised to encounter resistance. His squad was sure to miss at least a beat without Carmichael, Spradlin and Story.
“It was a three-headed monster, no doubt about it,” Ballard said. “But we've got so many guys back, especially in the offensive and defensive line. …
“Everybody’s tired of hearing about us, especially guys from Johnson City. They came in here with a huge chip on their shoulder. I’ve told these guys for months that’s what was gonna happen. Everybody that comes in here, we're going to take their best shot.”
Science Hill was without defensive tackle Isaiah “Big Cat” Stephens (ankle). Greeneville was without linebacker Austin Perkins (knee).
Science Hill plays Elizabethton on Friday. Greeneville visits Morristown West.
Greeneville 26, SH 18
Science Hill 6 6 6 0 – 18
Greeneville 14 6 0 6 – 26
SH—Snyder 22 pass to Greene (kick blocked)
G—Shuffler 4 run (Ogle kick)
G—Shuffler 2 run (Ogle kick)
G—Stewart 11 run (kick failed)
SH—W. Adams 1 run (run failed)
SH—W. Adams 13 run (run failed)
G—Shuffler 5 run (run failed)
First downs 13 21
Rushes-Yds 30-146 60-342
Passing Yards 127 4
Total offense 273 346
Penalties 8-74 10-95
Fumbles 0-0 2-0
Punts 5-35.0 3-39.3