BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
SPORTS EDITOR EMERITUS
Grainger is supposed to be a team that likes to run first and pass only as an afterthought.
Friday night on Rebel Hill, the Grizzlies scrapped that idea and managed to sling the ball all over the place behind quarterback Lance Morton, who hit 9-of-11 throws for 229 yds. and two touchdowns as Grainger beat South Greene 54-14.
The Grizzlies' victory spoiled Homecoming 2012 for the Rebels, as a big crowd watched Summer Bowman get crowned as the new Homecoming Queen in pre-game festivities.
Seven different players scored touchdowns for Grainger, even a big lineman who scooped up what was ruled a fumble and returned it 85 yds. for a TD in the second half.
It wasn't like the Rebels were not getting their fair share of offense. They also moved the ball up the field with regularity, but missed out on some scoring chances and couldn't keep pace with the suddenly pass-happy Grizzlies, who improved to 4-4 on the year and 3-1 in the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference, keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.
South Greene, who started the game with only two seniors in the lineup, drops to 1-6 on the campaign and is 0-3 in the BRAC.
Although Grainger had the ball game in control with a 28-7 halftime advantage, the two teams looked as if they were going to stage a shootout in the final two periods before a lost fumble as South Greene was knocking on the door for a touchdown was returned by lineman Tyler Corum late in the third quarter, and that seemed to take all the wind out of the young Rebs.
Grainger rolled up 523 yds. of offense in the game, while South Greene had one of its best offensive outputs of the year with 219 total yards, including a 140-yd. rushing performance by Preston Shuffler.
The Grizzlies took the opening kickoff and moved 63-yds. in eight plays with Morton hitting two big passes for 20 and 11. Gabe Buttry scored on a 4-yd. run and Lucas Wear kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 8:26 left in the opening frame.
South Greene had a big play on their first down from scrimmage when Shuffler broke into the clear on a 72-yd. run to the Grainger 9-yd. line. But the drive stalled at the 5-yd. line and the Rebs missed out on a good chance to get off to a good start, turning the ball over on downs.
Grainger struck quickly. Morton hit Jeremy Tindell on a 70-yd. catch-and-run play, back Hunter Harp, returning to the lineup after getting hurt in the first game of the season, peeled off a 23-yarder, then two plays later Harp barged across from a yard out. The PAT by Wear made if 14-0.
Here came the Rebs again, with freshman quarterback Justin Casteel, filling in for the injured Hunter Waddell, connecting with Tim Lightfoot on a 14-yd. pass, with 15 more yards tacked on to that when Lightfoot was "horse-collared" on the tackle.
A pass from Casteel to Matt Nicademus got the Rebs inside the 10-yd. line, but most of that yardage was wiped out on a holding penalty and South Greene turned it over on downs again.
Grainger used a big play on the first play of the second quarter to make it 21-0 as Morton hit Matt Parker on a 43-yd. bomb for the touchdown.
South Greene never flinched, moving 66-yds. in only five plays to get on the board. It was Shuffler again, making a nice side-step in the backfield to break clear of tacklers, then bolting 51 yds. to the end zone. Christian Cisneros kicked the PAT to close the gap to 21-7.
But the Rebs just couldn't stop the Grainger express. Morton continued his pin-point accuracy throwing the ball to guide his team back down the field, with Zach Smith getting the score on a 19-yd. run and a 28-7 lead after Wear's PAT with 3:49 left.
South Greene kept the ball the rest of the half but couldn't get past midfield before time expired.
The Rebs went three-and-out after taking the second half kickoff. Following their punt, Grainger used another big play to get in position to score, a 42-yd. run by Harp. Noah Bunch collected the six points on a 17-yd. run and Wear's PAT made it 35-7.
A nice kickoff return by Nicademus kept South Greene's hopes alive. He gathered in the kick at his 7-yd. line and the Grizzlies couldn't nab him until he had reached the Grainger 24.
Nicademus then ran 22-yds. on a reverse down to the 1, where Casteel scored with 7:32 left in the third and closed the deficit to 35-14 after the Cisneros kick.
Morton unleashed another pass to answer for Grainger, a 46-yd. pass to Zach Smith. The PAT missed this time but the score read 41-14.
Another good kickoff return, this one by Casteel, had the Rebels starting at the Grainger 32. A 13-yd. run by Shuffler and another 13-yd. sprint put the ball at the 5. But that's where disaster struck. Casteel rolled back to pass and was hit. The officials ruled it a fumble rather than an incomplete pass, lineman Tyler Corum picked it up and set sail the other way. Another missed PAT, and the score read 47-14.
The Rebels never threatened again. Grainger tacked on another score in the final quarter on a 5-yd. run by Brandon McDaniel.
In addition to his 140 yds. rushing, Shuffler caught four passes in the game as Casteel hit 8-of-9 aerials in the first half and 9-of-13 for the game for 52 yds. Nicademus also had four receptions.
Harp led Grainger in rushing with 98 yds. as 12 ball carriers amassed 294 yds. on the ground.
Next week South Greene plays at West Greene in the annual "Milk Can" game.