BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS EDITOR
BRISTOL - Nine Greene County football players got the opportunity to extend their high school careers for four more quarters Sunday.
On a cold, dreary day at Gene Malcolm Stadium, they were part of a Northeast Tennessee All-Star roster that rolled to a 44-0 victory over Southwest Virginia in the fourth annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Senior Bowl.
Greeneville's Zack Finchum was named the Offensive MVP for Northeast Tennessee as he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another.
The quarterback who led the Devils to a 12-1 record and a quarterfinal appearance in the state playoffs rushed for 113 yards on 14 carries and completed six passes for a total of 85 yards.
"It was really a fun experience playing with different people," Finchum said. "We ran some of the same stuff today that I ran at Greeneville, so I've been used to doing it for a long time now. It was pretty much second nature."
"I am just happy to get out there and play high school football one more time."
Four of the five county high schools were represented by multiple players, and all nine players played early and often. They helped Tennessee improve to 4-0 over their border counterparts in the relatively young event.
Making up the local contingent were Finchum, Jake Sell and Austin Bailey from Greeneville, Robert Vradenburgh and Justin Pinkston from West Greene, Preston Shuffler and Hunter Waddell from South Greene, and Tyler Coe and Jacob Quillen from Chuckey-Doak.
"It's a great opportunity to put the helmet and pads on one more time," Pinkston said. "It's been a whole lot of fun. The few days we got in practice, we all took it serious and we all came out here ready to play."
The teams practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. An abbreviated playbook was passed out the first day, and a game plan was formulated over the final two days of practice.
"That second day, everybody knew what they were doing," Pinkston said. "You could tell that guys went home and studied their plays."
Finchum was one of the captains for Tennessee and led the team under center on its first offensive series.
Using the spread-option attack that he ran to near-perfection at Greeneville this year, Finchum drove the all-star unit 77 yards down the field and capped the 14-play drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to a leaping D.J. Jones of Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett.
Jones caught a touchdown pass on Tennessee's second possession as well, this time on a 32-yard strike from Tennessee High quarterback Peyton Henley. From there, the rout was on.
Finchum added touchdown runs of 3 and 7 yards later in the game as Tennessee got the continous clock running under the 35-point mercy rule. His final score came on a 53-yard option keeper down the left side of the field in the second half.
Finchum, who is also a star for the GHS baseball team, said there are some opportunities out there for him to play college football, but that he is still in the decision-making process with regards to what he wants to do.
"I'm not sure yet," Finchum said. "I've got some decisions that I'm going to have to make."
Coe, Chuckey-Doak's record-breaking running back, played several plays on defense Sunday. He finally got the chance to run the ball during the second quarter, but suffered an ankle injury on the play and was sidelined the rest of the afternoon.
Shuffler's highlight of the day came on an exciting punt return he had for 30 yards in the first half.
"It was an honor to play today," Shuffler said. "At the end of the season, I didn't think I was going to get another hit at it. But it was a blessing to have this opportunity to play one more time."
Sell played both on the offensive and defensive lines quite regularly in the game. Quillen was a fixture on another one of the offensive line rotations. Waddell played receiver and had a couple of receptions. Pinkston, Vradenburg, and Bailey all saw time on defense.