SUN SPORTS WRITER
In a Greeneville offense that produced yards in bunches and lit up the scoreboard week in and week out, Zack Finchum not only directed the show but was the star for the prolific Greene Devils this season.
The senior quarterback threw for 2,275 yards and also was the team leader in rushing with 732 yards. In total, Finchum was responsible for 41 touchdowns as Greeneville compiled a 12-1 season and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
For his accomplishments in 2013, Finchum has been named the Greeneville Sun's Co-Offensive Player of the Year, along with Chuckey-Doak's record-setting running back, Tyler Coe.
"He's been our most valuable player, and honestly, I believe we wouldn't be where we are without him," Greeneville head coach Caine Ballard said. "He's intelligent, a great decision maker and a great competitor who has a great will to win."
The numbers Finchum put up as an individual were unquestionably impressive, but how well he ran the Greene Devils' offense is what truly made him a special player. The coaching staff gave Finchum a lot of freedom under center and trusted that he would make the right decision for the team.
Much of their running game was the result of a read-option system in which Finchum had to react to the defense to give his squad the best chance of success. In doing so, the Devils produced 2,862 rushing yards and 55 rushing touchdowns this season.
In the passing game, Ballard and the staff trusted Finchum's ability to make the right call and they allowed him to make checks at the line of scrimmage, something very few high school quarterbacks are given the liberty to do.
That freedom is something that Finchum appreciated, and attributes it to the relationship he built with the staff during his time with the Devils.
"I think we have developed a really good trust factor," Finchum said. "They trust that I can make the right reads and call the right plays when needed. It all comes down to chemistry with the coaches and our preparation during practice."
Without question, Ballard's spread attack, which sends the ball all over the field and let Finchum use his dual skill-set to maximal efficiency, was integral in Finchum producing the statistics he did this year. That is a fact that Finchum is very aware of and the signal caller loved playing in the offense for that reason. He has always been very quick to credit the offensive scheme for his on-field production.
"It's a great offense," Finchum said. "I couldn't ask for anything better. You have the options to call your own plays or change things, you can run the ball when you want to, or check to a throw. It's just a really fun offense to run and I wouldn't want to be a part of any other."
Much of the trust the Greene Devil coaching staff put in Finchum came as a result of the way he developed as a leader, one of the best Ballard has had.
"His leadership is very important to us," the coach said. "You want to have great character and leadership at the quarterback position."
"Any time you look at successful football teams, that's pretty much what they have - a kid with great character who leads the football team. Zack is very, very good at it."
That leadership developed over time and Ballard was very proud of how the senior matured last offseason.
"It started a long time ago with his leadership," Ballard said. "It was in the weight room over the summer and on the practice field every day. He's matured greatly as a player and a person, and become a great football player for us."
His development from last season to this one was something Finchum attributed to the offseason work he put in. One of his primary focuses over the summer was to improve on reading defenses. That worked paid off as he boasted 29 touchdown passes to just five interceptions.
"I think maturing over time really helped me get better as a player," Finchum said.