COOKEVILLE — It only took six plays for things to look bleak for Maplewood.
Starting with a shockingly easy first drive, Greeneville dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and earned its second straight TSSAA Class 4A state football championship with a 37-0 win over Nashville Maplewood on Saturday at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
Greeneville standout Jamel Hall summed it up in three words when asked what the crowns meant to the Greene Devils.
“It means everything,” said Hall.
Greeneville became the first Northeast Tennessee team to win back-to-back titles since Tennessee High in 1971-72.
Tanner Stewart was the man of the evening for the Greene Devils. The junior quarterback rushed 27 times for 191 yards and scored three touchdowns. He also completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hays Culbreth, finishing with 250 yards of total offense.
“It was a heck of an effort by the offensive line,” said Stewart, who was named the game’s offensive most valuable player. “I owe everything to them.”
Head coach Caine Ballard said his team did just about everything right.
“We played flawless and won the line of scrimmage,” said Ballard. “It was unbelievable, a great team effort.”
The Greene Devils, who finished 14-1, won their 13th straight game and their 29th in their last 30. Maplewood ended with a record of 11-4.
Ballard said the experience of being in a title game served his team well.
“We were just comfortable being here,” he said.
It didn’t take long for the Greene Devils to announce their arrival. They drove 85 yards on six running plays, gaining 75 on the final four plays with runs from Tanner Stewart (13, 8, 7) and Jamel Hall (39). Stewart’s 7-yard run and Ben Ogle’s extra point made it 7-0.
“The first drive didn’t mean anything,” said Stewart. “We had to do it the whole game.”
Greeneville forced a three and out, and went to the ground again. Fourteen pounding, smashing running plays later, Hall went untouched into the end zone from 1-yard out and it was 14-0.
Maplewood’s ensuing drive stalled in Greeneville territory, and the Greene Devils went to the ground pound again. Thirteen running plays and one courtesy incomplete pass later, Stewart danced untouched into the end zone from seven yards out to put the Panthers in a 21-0 hole with 4:41 left in the first half.
When Kelby Wilson picked off a pass one minute later, Maplewood was once again in trouble. However, after Greeneville drove to the Maplewood 26 for a fourth-and-four play, Hall’s first down run ended with a fumble and the Panthers recovered.
Maplewood pushed the ball down the field, but stalled out in Greeneville territory. In the first half, Greeneville came within two yards of having two 100-yard rushers and totaled 248 yards on 41 carries.
Greeneville punted on its first drive of the second half, but Trey Clark pinned Maplewood on its 4-yard line. After a three and out, Stewart raced 43 yards for his third score of the game. It stayed 27-0 after a missed extra point.
Stewart’s pass to Culbreth made it 34-0. By the end of the third quarter, the Greene Devils had amassed 323 yards on the ground and pulled their first-team offense.
Ogle capped things off with a 25-yard field goal to make it 37-0.
Terrell Rollins was chosen as the game’s defensive most valuable player. Hall finished with 124 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Notes: Greeneville finished its season with 670 points, good for eighth place on the all-time list. In two seasons, the Greene Devils have scored 1,418 points, an average of 47.3 per game. …
Greeneville was the first team in Northeast Tennessee history to play for three straight state titles. …
Ballard improved his coaching record to 14-1 in playoff games. His overall record is 40-5.