BY EUAL SHELTON
For the third straight week Greeneville did not get off to a fast start, leading only 3-0 at the close of the period.
After the slow start, they racked up 28 points in the second and a 66 yard kickoff return by Tyler Tomlinson to start the second half propelled the Greene Devils to an insurmountable 38-0 advantage and on their way to a 45-14 victory over Claiborne High School in the regular season final at Burley Stadium Friday night.
It was senior night for the Greene Devils, who introduced 25 seniors in pre game festivities.
The accomplishments during their four years has been outstanding. As freshmen the team finished with a 11-4 record and as runner-up in the Class 4-A state championship contest. They won back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011, while posting 15-0 and 14-1 season and they are currently 7-3 for this year and the combined record for the four years is a staggering 47-8.
The Greene Devils will be back in action at Burley Stadium Friday night as they will host the first round of the Class 4-A state playoffs. The opponent will be determined when the TSSAA issues the pairings after 11:00 a.m. Saturday.
"We won't have any problem motivating our team to come out strong at the start next week," said head coach Caine Ballard.
"We know what's at stake. We don't know our opponent yet but we have to be ready to play from the opening kickoff."
"We had to make some changes in our offense and they have shown steady improvement each week. Zack (Finchum) has improved so much in his running to go with his passing. It was tough moving Tanner (Stewart) from quarterback to tailback but it gave us a very dependable, quality runner and improved our offense so much. Trevor (Wright) and Hays (Culbreth) give us a pair of quality receivers that are a threat to score from any place on the field.
"We finally seem to have the right people in place defensively to stop people and are looking forward to the playoffs," he said in closing.
GHS settled for a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by senior Lincoln Taylor with 9:31 left in the opening period.
After the lackluster beginning, the Greene Devils racked up four touchdowns in six minutes in the second period.
Stewart the 200 pound senior, who switched to tailback, midway of the season got the first at the 10:05 mark on a nine yard run that closed out a five play 55 yard march.
Finchum connected with wideout Trevor Wright at the 8:08 mark for a 19 yard pass play to increase the margin to 17-0 when Taylor added the extra point.
Greenville's defense never allowed the Bulldogs past the 50 yard line until late in the fourth period when junior varsity and freshmen were gaining playing time and forced four consecutive three and out on CHS.
Meanwhile GHS was scoring in rapid fire order. Next up in the scoring parade was Finchum on a seven yard run at the 5:10 mark to increase the margin to 24-0.
The Greene Devils Finchum connected with Wright for the big play of 42 yards that set up the final score of the half with Stewart giving GHS 31-0 lead when he scored from one yard out with 35.2 seconds remaining in the half.
Greeneville got the "mercy rule" in effect with the opening kickoff to start the second half when Tomlinson gathered the kickoff at his 35-yd.line and streak up field 65 yards for the score that increased the margin to 38-0 with 11:46 remaining in the third.
The Greene Devils final score came in the fourth when freshman Lincoln Bowman found Dylan Fields for a 11-yard scoring strike with 8:47 remaining in the contest and a 45-0 lead.
Claiborne scored twice in the final two minutes of the contest, the first coming with 1:16 remaining on a 24 yard run by quarterback Joseph Ledford and the second on a pass interception by Paul Estep as time expired.
Greeneville has now won six consecutive conference titles, beginning with the final two in the old Inter-Mountain Conference and four straight in the current Blue Ridge Athletic Conference, where they are a perfect 24-0 over the four years.