BY SCOTT R. FISHER
CUMBERLAND GAP - The pre-game fireworks were supplied by the Cumberland Gap Panthers. Game-time fireworks were provided by the Greeneville Greene Devils.
Greeneville (10-0, 5-0 BRAC) closed out the regular season by thrashing their Blue Ridge Athletic Conference foe 68-0 Friday night. The Greene Devils dominated in every category possible in the win.
"We have a few things to celebrate," head coach Caine Ballard told his players following the win. "10-0 and the defensive record. Good stuff."
Ballard's squad gave up the least amount of points in a single season for any Greeneville football team in history.
The Greene Devils were so efficient Friday night that the most plays run during any of their 10 scoring possessions was six plays. That came during their ninth touchdown drive of the contest.
Senior quarterback Zack Finchum passed for four scores and ran for another touchdown before giving way to the back-ups in the second half. Finchum threw for 142 yards while completing six of nine passes.
Finchum's first scoring strike came on a fourth down play at the Panthers 38-yard line. Finchum found Quan Harrison streaking down the hash marks. Harrison out-raced the defenders for a quick score.
Greeneville took four plays and 1:02 to take a 7-0 lead with 8:28 left in the opening quarter.
Cumberland Gap was able to gain nearly 20 yards before being forced to punt for the second time in the game.
Sophomore Desmond Dabbs made sure the Greene Devil offensive did not linger on the field long. He broke a 13-yard run on first down. Three plays later, Dabbs burst through the Panthers' defense and sped his way to the endzone 60 yards away.
The second scoring drive lasted four plays and took 1:06 off the clock.
"We wanted to come out and perfect everything," senior Trevor Wright. "We wanted to come out and be efficient. We wanted to run everything clean."
A special teams play helped set up the next Greene Devils score. Senior Hays Culbreth returned a punt 30 yards down to the Cumberland Gap 25-yard line. It only took one play for Finchum to add to the Greeneville lead.
Finchum hooked up with Wright on a 25-yard pass to push the lead to 21-0 after Ethan Ellis added the extra point.
Greeneville's defense remained strong and forced another punt. The Greene Devils set up inside of Cumberland Gap territory at the 40-yard line.
The ensuing drive lasted 40 seconds as the Devils took three plays to reach the end zone. It was Finchum who carried the ball in for the touchdown. His run covered 33 yards on a read option.
After Ellis kicked home the extra point, the lead stood at 28-0 with 8:35 remaining before the halftime intermission.
Another special teams play aided the next Greeneville possession, as senior Austin Bailey blocked a punt deep in the Panthers' zone.
After a fumble by the offense, Finchum responded with two quick passes. His first pass was to junior Dylan Fields for 18 yards. Culbreth hauled in a 17-yarder for the next touchdown thrown by Finchum.
The lead was 35-0 with more than five minutes left before halftime.
The scoring blitz was not over yet, though. Finchum's final TD toss was to a wide open Fields. Fields caught the pass and then raced to the end zone untouched.
The Greene Devils led the game 42-0 at the intermission.
The yardage total at the half was striking. The Greene Devils had 267 yards of offense while the Panthers managed 47 yards. Greeneville finished with 510 yards of offense in the contest.
The offensive fireworks did not come to a halt just because Coach Ballard substituted heavily in the second half.. The Greene Devils found the end zone four times in the second half with a running clock.
Dabbs carried the ball for the last time on the second play from scrimmage in the second half. He went the distance on a 66-yard run. Once Dabbs broke through the first level of defenders, no one could catch the speedster. He finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns.
The extra point was blocked and the Greene Devil margin was 48-0 1:02 into the second half.
Freshman Leau-Alston Williams did most of the damage on the next scoring drive. Williams carried twice for 46 yards during the four-play, 65-yard drive. His second carry was a 16-yard touchdown run.
The extra point attempt was missed and the lead increased to 54-0. That was the score at the end of the third quarter.
The longest possession of the game in terms of plays ran came the next time Greeneville had the ball. Sophomore Lincoln Bowman directed his team during a six-play scoring drive.
Bowman connected on all three pass attempts. His final throw was a 31-yarder to sophomore Nick Payne. Payne needed only to turn around and trot into the end zone. The six plays covered 67 yards.
Freshman Donovan Barner closed out the scoring for the GHS squad late in the fourth quarter when he got around the end and raced 37-yards down the sideline.
As big of a win as this was, Ballard knows this is just the end of the first season. Now his team starts the second season - the playoffs.
"We are ready," he said. "We are 10-0 and healthy. We will be prepared for whomever we play."
Ballard told his players that they better be ready for what comes next.
"Everything changes come Monday," he said. "We are going to be prepared. It is time to go now. "