BY SCOTT R. FISHER
Over the past several years, Burley Stadium has not been a friendly environment for visiting teams. On Friday, the Greene Devils definitely did not put out the welcome mat.
Greeneville (5-0) hosted the Harlan County Black Bears and routed the visitors from Kentucky. The Greene Devils pitched the shutout and came away with a 45-0 victory.
Next up for Greeneville is the Grainger Grizzlies in a Blue Ridge Athletic Conference matchup. It will be Homecoming at Burley Stadium.
"That is a very good football team," GHS head coach Caine Ballard said about the team from Harlan County. "The score might not show it, but it was good football game against a good team. They have struggled with turning the ball over."
By that standard, the Greene Devils must also be a very good team at the halfway mark of the season.
The Black Bears turned the football over three times and failed to field a kickoff. Those mistakes killed their chances. Greeneville was able to take advantage of the turnovers and turned them into 17 points.
The Greene Devils did not take long to get on the scoreboard. After holding the Black Bears to a 3-and-out, GHS scored on its third play from scrimmage. Senior Zach Finchum tossed a screen pass to senior Quan Wilson who followed his blockers and weaved his way to the endzone 63 yards away. With less than three minutes played, the Greene Devils led 7-0 after freshman Ethan Ellis kicked the extra point.
Senior Isaiah Dabbs recovered a fumble two plays later and Greeneville was on the move once again. Their nine-play drive stalled at the Black Bear 21-yard line.
Baisa Rogosic came in and nailed a 38-yard field to extend the lead to 10-0 with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter.
The Black Bear offense got rolling on its next drive. The possession lasted 11 plays and covered 35 yards. There was some controversy during the drive, though.
With Harlan County facing a fourth-and-2 from the Greeneville 49, the Greene Devils appeared to stuff the run behind the line of scrimmage. The Greene Devil offense actually flooded onto the field.
Unfortunately, the officials disagreed. The spot of the football gave the Black Bears a first down.
This turn of events appeared to fire up the Greene Devils.
"We have have talked a lot about overcoming adversity," Ballard said. "We have not had to face any adversity yet. This was a type of adversity. We overcame it."
A few drives later, Greeneville added to their lead with a pass from Finchum to Wilson. The pass route was a slant across the middle. Wilson caught the ball in the open field and raced his way to a 38-yard touchdown. Ellis added the extra point to make the lead 17-0 with 7:19 remaining in the first half.
The scoring drive covered 40 yards and came after senior Trevor Wright recovered a fumble.
The next scoring drive chewed up more real estate and took more time off the clock. The Greene Devils drove 85-yards in 10 plays. The drive was helped by a 15-yard personal foul penalty against the Black Bears,
The scoring play was a 26-yard pass from Finchum to senior Hays Culbreth into the corner of the endzone. Culbreth also caught an 11-yard pass the play prior to the touchdown.
Finchum completed three passes for 60 yards on the drive. For the game, Finchum finished 13 of 25 for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
When asked if the speed of the Greene Devils was a major factor in the game, Ballard agreed it played a part.
"They were loading the box with eight men." he said. "We have some weapons on the edge and a quarterback who is playing very well. We took advantage of our speed on the edges."
The final score before halftime was also a direct result of a fumble by the Black Bears. Sophomore Jalen Pruitt came up with the loose ball on the Harlan County 20 yard line.
Greeneville scored four plays later when Finchum plunged into the endzone from one yard out. The big play was a 16-yard pass to Culbreth down to the two yard line.
The Greene Devil lead at the half was 31-0.
Greenville added to its lead on its second possession of the third quarter. Sophomore Desmod Dabbs capped off the 95-yard drive with a 17-yard run.
The drive lasted 10 plays and ate up almost four and a half minutes of game time. The big play was a 44-yard run by Finchum.
The Black Bears' troubles got worse on the ensuing kickoff. The ball was never fielded when sophomore Josh Lee slipped while trying to pick up the football. Isaiah Dabbs pounced on the loose football at the 12-yard line.
Desmond Dabbs burst up the middle of the line and found his way to the endzone for the final score of the game. Ellis capped off the scoring with his extra point kick.
The only question that remained with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter was if the Greene Devils would preserve the shutout. The defense held strong and did not give up any points.
"We encourage who ever is out there to get a stop," Ballard said.
Ballard pointed out that the first team defense still has not allowed any points to be recorded against them.
Wilson and Finchum were the obvious offensive stars for Greeneville. Finchum led all rushers 81 yards. Wilson caught passes for 111 yards and two scores.