After leading Greeneville to its first win of the 2019 season at Daniel Boone last week, senior quarterback Blayne Ferguson will start the Greene Devils’ home opener against Union County on Friday night at Burley Stadium.
In a 31-14 win over Daniel Boone, Ferguson completed seven of 10 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He also ran for 52 yards on 10 carries.
And with junior quarterback Drew Gregg – Greeneville’s Week 1 starter – still nursing a knee sprain, Ferguson will be back under center against Union County.
“The quarterback position, like all positions, is always a competition in my mind. We’re going to try to keep that open and that theme going,” said first-year Greeneville coach Dan Hammonds, whose Devils are 1-1. “Most of the time, certain guys stick in the starting lineup. But we’re trying to reinforce that playing time is always on the line in practice, playing time is always on the line in game performance.
“The number of reps you get in a game depends on how you’ve done in practice and in previous games. That’s quarterback, that’s defensive end, that’s running back – all positions. Competition just makes everybody better. When you’re competing for a spot, whether you think about it or not, it’s going to make you work harder than if you feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable as a player, or in anything in life, you tend to let up whether you mean to or not. So competition is always open, reps are on the line.”
Gregg, junior receiver Nick Iezzi (hamstring) and sophomore linebacker Bryce Ferguson (shoulder) sat out last week’s game at Daniel Boone and will likely not play tonight. Joining the doubtful is senior receiver/defensive back Raymond Knuckles (groin).
“A couple of those guys have practiced this week, but they’ve been limited on contact and numbers of reps they can go,” Hammonds said. “So this week’s lineup will probably be the same as last week’s for the most part.
“Raymond got folded up making a tackle last week and didn’t play the second half. He’s probably limited to being out this week.”
In addition to Ferguson’s numbers last week, Greeneville got strong efforts from senior receiver/defensive back Keyontae Harrison, senior kicker CeJ Jones, senior running back/linebacker Ty Youngblood and sophomore running back Mason Gudger.
Harrison caught four passes for 111 yards and a TD. On defense, he intercepted a pass and made a tackle in the backfield to help stall a Daniel Boone drive in the red zone late in the third quarter.
Youngblood ran for 106 yards and two TDs on 15 carries, and he had 10 tackles, five assists and a tackle for loss on defense. Gudger rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries, while Jones put all of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks for the first time in his career, nailed a 41-yard field goal and was perfect on PATs.
“The guys just keep getting better. We’ve talked about our inexperience and I think we made good improvement from week one to week two in a lot of areas,” Hammonds said. “After going back and watching film, we saw a lot of things we liked.
“Right now, it’s the same goal. The more games we play, the more guys we get into games, the more experience we gain and the better we get. So Union County is another chance to get more experience and work on some things we need to polish up.”
Union County comes to Burley Stadium with a 1-1 record. The Patriots opened the season with a 14-6 loss at Cherokee and defeated Claiborne 54-45 at home last week.
Greeneville rolled to a 62-7 win over Union County in 2017 and a 69-0 win over the Patriots in 2018 en route to back-to-back 15-0 seasons and Class 4A state titles.
“Their offense is so much different than anything else we’ve seen,” Hammonds said. “It’s a goal-line set almost every single play, so we’ve been practicing more goal-line type things this week than we typically do.”
Alonzo Creech, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, appears to be Union county’s top offensive weapon. Against Claiborne, he ran for 244 yards and six TDs on 28 carries.
“Their offense is essentially how many people can they get blocking on one side of the center and outnumber you,” Hammonds said. “As soon as you start overloading one side, they run counter back to the other side. They mix that up and do a good job of just trying to gain numbers against the defense.”