One of two things will happen tonight at Burley Stadium in Greeneville.
Either the Greene Devils will further distance themselves from the sting of losing to Giles County in the 2009 Class 4A football state championship game, or they will experience a double portion of that pain.
“Have we talked about that loss, sure we have,” said Greeneville head coach Caine Ballard, who has a career playoff record of 12-1. “A lot of seniors played in that game as sophomores, several defensive guys. It’s two totally different teams, but we know how we felt walking off the field after that game.”
It wasn’t just the loss, but the way it ended. Leading 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Greeneville couldn’t stop Giles on a fourth-and-nine from the Greene Devils’ 42 and the Bobcats eventually drove for the tying score.
With just under four minutes left in the game, Giles punted and Greeneville had a chance to take over inside the Bobcats’ 40-yard line. But the Greene Devils fumbled on the punt return and Giles got the ball back.
Then on third down, Bo Wallace threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Zach Bailey. Interestingly enough, Greeneville’s only loss since that game — the Greene Devils are 27-1 since — came earlier this season on a late-game bomb against Morristown West.
After the touchdown by Giles, Greeneville drove all the way to the 18-yard line but threw an interception near the goal line with six seconds left in the game.
Winning the Class 4A state title in an undefeated 2010 season erased a lot of the sting of the Giles loss. But since sports are a what-have-you-done-lately deal, this is a dramatic rematch.
Ballard is a self-admitted stress head, so he doesn’t need to be told about the ramifications of losing this game. Giles would become a monkey on his back, but that doesn’t add to the pressure, he said.
“I put so much pressure on myself every week, so this week doesn’t feel any different,” said Ballad.
Making things more interesting about the rematch is the fact Giles has a similar look to the 2009 team.
“It looks like they are cloned,” said Ballard. “It’s unbelievable. It’s like they have Bo Wallace Jr. at quarterback. He’s 6-foot-1, 180 pounds with great arm strength. He runs well and he’s a good competitor. He makes them go.
“And they are really balanced with 2,300 passing and 2,500 yards rushing.”
It’s odd these teams would even be meeting here. Giles, located in Pulaski, is a five-hour, 16-minute drive while Nashville Maplewood is only four hours and eight minutes away. Giles is kind of in no-man’s land in the southern middle portion of the state, not really fitting neatly into Quadrant 2 or Quadrant 3 with the way things fell this year.
But the overriding factor for Greeneville this year is playing at home instead of making that long drive.
“I’m certainly glad to be at home,” said Ballard. “Any time you travel 5½ hours, it’s a long hard day. Last year it was a tough trip for us, but we got the win.”
Still, it was the only close game (17-7) in the last two years of the playoffs for Greeneville.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.