By JOE BYRD
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
CHATTANOOGA -- Greeneville did here Friday night what a dozen teams before them failed to do.
The Devils beat No. 1 ranked Red Bank and earned their second straight trip to the state semifinals.
It wasn't just a win for Greeneville. It was one for the ages. Andy McNeese blocked an extra point attempt with 48 seconds remaining to secure a 14-13 victory over the previously unbeaten Lions on their home field.
"We are just absolutely elated," said Greeneville coach Caine Ballard. "We played probably a more athletic team for the third week in a row, but these kids ... their hearts are bigger than athletes'. I tip my hat to Red Bank. They have a tremendous football team. There have been a lot of sleepless nights. They've got an incredible football team, but I'll take my young men and the work ethic they have and go play anybody."
Next up for the Greene Devils will be Whites Creek from the mid-state area, who defeated Nashville Maplewood 12-3 Friday. That game, according to the TSSAA bracket, would be back in the friendly confines of Burley Stadium since Greeneville is a higher seeded team than is Whites Creek.
It was a strong defensive work ethic and a huge special teams play that won the game for Greeneville. Not only that, the Devils had to overcome a rash of their own mistakes.
But still they prevailed.
Entering Friday night's TSSAA Class 4A state quarterfinals, Red Bank was a perfect 12-0 and averaged 42 points a game. Nick Craney and Jamel Hall led Greeneville's defense in holding the Lions to their lowest points total of the season.
The Devils have put big offensive numbers on the board all season themselves, so a game like this coming down to defense might have been a surprise.
"I didn't know what it would come down to, but I knew if we could control the clock a little bit and keep it at that pace we were in pretty good shape," Ballard said.
Controlling the clock was what the Devils did in the second half where Greeneville did all of its scoring. Greeneville threw the ball only once in the second half and did not punt.
What the Devils did better in the second half than controlling the clock was controlling the football. They had three turnovers in the first half -- and what could have been a critical one in the second half -- but Greeneville played through its mistakes to win and keep its season alive.
"It's a tribute to them. They are a special group. Not too many people could overcome (four turnovers) and beat the number one team in the state," Ballard said.
The Devils had six offensive possessions in the first half. Three of them ended in turnovers with Greeneville driving in Lion territory.
One of them set up Red Bank's only scoring drive of the first half.
Greeneville fumbled the ball away at the Red Bank 35 mid way of the first quarter. Quarterback Wes Quarles was intercepted at the Lion 36 early in the second. Red Bank killed what surely looked like a Greeneville scoring drive later in the second when Quarles was intercepted on the goal line.
The first interception hurt the worst. After the pick and a long return by Ladarius Thomas, the Lions went 29 yards on seven plays to score the only points of the first half. Keon Williams put the Lions on the board with a one-yard blast through the pile, and Andy Ramirez was good on the extra point to make it 7-0 with 5:14 to play before halftime.
Greeneville's ensuing possession was a heartbreaker. After Rob Wright turned a Quarles pass into a 58 yard gain to get the Devils deep into Red Bank's half of the field, the Lions killed the drive when Jeremy Jackson came up with another interception at the goal line.
At the start of the second half, it was Greeneville's turn to put some points on the board thanks to a Red Bank turnover.
Lion quarterback Andy Christopher completed a pass to Josh Robinson for a solid gain, but Robinson was hit hard and the ball popped loose. Landon Morrison was on the spot for the Devils, scooping it up to give the Devils possession on the Lion 37.
It took nine plays to grind out the distance with Quarles slipping in from the 5 and Ben Ogle hitting the extra point to tie the game at 7 with 6:17 on the clock in the third quarter.
Red Bank's next possession ended just like its last, with Greeneville getting a turnover and great field position when Quarles intercepted a pass to give the Devils the ball at mid field.
Quarles and Wright hooked up on the Devils' only pass of the second half when Wright leaped high above double coverage to pull down a 36-yard reception and give Greeneville the ball on the Red Bank 3. Disaster hit two plays later when Greeneville fumbled away its fourth turnover of the game right on the goal line and into the end zone to give Red Bank the ball back out at the 20.
Craney led a big defensive series for the Devils where they forced the Lions to three-and-out, and that set up what proved to be the game-winning scoring drive.
Greeneville started on its own 35 and used an 11-play, time-consuming drive that included a fourth-down conversion in Devil territory. B.J. Spradlin and Quarles did all the work to get the Devils into the end zone and into the lead when Spradlin plowed through from the 1. Ogle's point after made it 14-7 with 6:24 left in the game.
After the kickoff, the Devils thought they had it sewn up after back-to-back sacks by Hall that had Red Bank staring at third-and-22 on its own 30, but Christopher went deep -- 45 yards deep -- to Robinson to get the Lions right back into it. Six plays later, Williams scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard run to make it a 14-13 game with 48 seconds remaining.
That's where it stayed thanks to perhaps Greeneville's biggest special teams play of the decade. The Lions set up for the the extra point that would have tied the game and likely send it into overtime, but they didn't set up good enough to keep McNeese and Morrison from crashing through the line and blocking the kick to preserve the lead and ultimately the win for the Greene Devils.
"Oh my gosh. This is the best feeling I've ever had," Morrison said. "We knew we had to play hard coming into this game. They were the number one team. It's awesome. It's amazing."
Greeneville out-gained the Lions 336 yards to 269 in terms of total offense.
Quarles was 5-of-9 passing for 139 yards. Wright had three catches for 119 yards. Morrison had two for 20.
Spradlin had 118 yards rushing on 28 carries, one yard shy of what the Lions had as a team. Quarles rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries.
The loss closes the book on Red Bank with a record of 12-1. Greeneville takes a 10-3 record into the Class 4A state semifinals next Friday night.
Greeneville 0 0 7 7 -- 14
Red Bank 0 7 0 6 -- 13
RB - Keon Williams, 1-yard run (Andy Ramirez kick)
GHS - Wes Quarles, 5-yard run (Ben Ogle kick)
GHS - B.J. Spradlin, 1-yard run (Ogle kick)
RB - Williams, 1-yard run (kick blocked by Andy McNeese)
First Downs 15 15
Passing (comp-att-int) 5-9-2 12-19-1
Yards Passing 139 150
Yards Rushing 197 119
Total Offense 336 269
Fumbles 2 1
Penalties 3-15 3-20
Punting. Avg. 2-41.5 4-28.75
RUSHING: GHS - Chaz Story 1-2, B.J. Spradlin 28-118, Taylor Shuffler 1-0, Wes Quarles 11-77; RB - Keon Williams 23-93, Randall Lee 1-4, Andy Christopher 6-22.
PASSING: GHS - Wes Quarles 5-9-139; RB - Andy Christopher 12-19-150.
RECEIVING: GHS - Rob Wright 3-119, Landon Morrison 2-20; RB - Josh Robinson 7-109, Shawn McKlesky 3-22, Kelvin Clay 2-18.