In a rematch of a dramatic Week 9 encounter between teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state — a contest decided on Jaxton Holly’s 34-yard field goal in the final seconds — Greeneville will travel to take on Elizabethton in a Class 4A state quarterfinal Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Citizens Bank Stadium.
The top-ranked Cyclones, who were at No. 2 in the first meeting, are 12-0 on the season. Greeneville, which settled in at No. 4 in the final AP state poll, is 10-2 after beating No. 3 Anderson County last week.
Each team has a Class 4A Mr. Football candidate. Elizabethton sophomore Bryson Rollins was a semifinalist while Greeneville senior Ty Youngblood was chosen Tuesday as one of three finalists for the award.
Greeneville has the gold balls — four of them, dating back to 2010 along with a runner-up finish in 2009 — and carries a 12-game postseason winning streak that includes the last two state championships.
“I don’t know if it adds confidence, but our seniors have experience in games this time of year,” said Greeneville head coach Dan Hammonds. “It is a long season when you make it to round three of the playoffs, and continuing to prepare mentally and physically are a must. They know this is special and you must never take it for granted.”
Elizabethton is also no stranger to winning at this stage. The Cyclones seek their eighth semifinal appearance, seven since 1997. They reached this point in 1938 — the year of their only state title — and also made it in 1997-99, 2009-10 and 2012.
Both coaches said they think the game will be similar to Oct. 18.
“You have to be true to who you are, and what your identity has been up to 12 games,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten. “Greeneville is one of those teams that doesn’t really do a lot of things different. You have to execute the plays you’ve ran well all year long. But it is the playoffs. There are going to be different looks to try to keep people off balance.”
Hammonds said he expects more intensity.
“There was a lot riding on the previous game with home-field advantage in the playoffs,” Hammonds said. “This time will be similar, but more intense just because it is win-or-go-home time.”
Witten said offense, defense, special teams and field position are the keys to victory.
“Your focal point can’t just be offense and defense,” said Witten. “It also has to be special teams play. They beat us on special teams on Oct. 18: field position, blocked punt, kick return, letting the ball hit and roll on a punt return. We lost that battle by a long shot. Both of our drives at the end of the game had to go the distance.”
Witten said he expects a physical game.
“Every play,” he said. “We have to put the last play behind us and go to the next play.”
THE FIRST MEETING
Elizabethton struck first, scoring on its second possession with Parker Hughes’ collecting a 38-yard touchdown pass from Rollins. Greeneville answered with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns by Mason Gudger and led 14-7 at the half.
A blocked punt set Greeneville up for a third-quarter score and a 21-7 lead. Elizabethton got a late third-quarter touchdown, a 59-yard pass from Rollins to Zach Hartley, to make it 21-14.
A 95-yard drive made it 21-21 in the fourth quarter, and Elizabethton followed by forcing a Greene Devils’ punt after five plays. The Cyclones drove 42 yards to Greeneville’s 17-yard line, and Holly booted a field goal with seven seconds left on the clock.
Rollins has passed for 1,932 yards and added 705 rushing this season. He has 24 passing touchdowns with 13 rushing scores.
Running back Cade Maupin has 1,269 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He also has 100 yards receiving.
Hughes has 859 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns. Hartley has 491 yards and four scores.
For Greeneville, Gudger has rushed for 1,250 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Youngblood has 752 yards rushing with 13 scores. Quarterback Drew Gregg has passed for 730 yards with 10 touchdowns. He has rushed for 442 yards and nine touchdowns.
Deuce Morton heads the Cyclones’ attack with 104 tackles. Carson Stresemann has eight tackles for loss. Jake Roberts has three interceptions.
For the Greene Devils, Youngblood has 75 tackles with 18 for loss. Leyton Mitchell has 11 sacks. AJ Stewart has four interceptions.
Holly has made 58 extra points this season along with five field goals. Greeneville’s CeJ Jones had made 60 PATs with four field goals.