GREENBACK — After an unfortunate bounce on a Loudon kickoff pinned Greenback near its own end zone early in the fourth quarter, the Cherokees mounted a drive covering 95 yards. Paydirt, however, was three yards further beyond that effort. After gaining a second-and-goal at the Loudon 3-yard line, the Cherokees moved backwards and failed to score.

That’s how the Loudon County rivalry played out for Greenback on Friday. Loudon left Cooper Field with a 34-12 victory that, had a few plays throughout the contest gone the other way, might have turned into a major upset.

Ranked No. 3 in the AP Tennessee High School Football Class 3A poll, Loudon (6-0) converted twice on fourth-and-goal plays to jump out to a 21-0 halftime lead then held on as Class 1A Greenback (2-3) never stopped fighting despite being outmanned in both size and skill.

“Most games can come down to three or four plays, and it’s often just a matter of which team makes the plays,” Greenback coach Ethan Edmiston told The Daily Times. “Any play can be crucial, and we have just been on the losing side of too many of those plays.”

Two big momentum plays came on fourth-and-goal chances when the Redskins managed to punch the ball in for scores to take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.

Redskin quarterback Keaton Harig was picked off by Michaal Payne on the second play from scrimmage. Greenback pushed for two first downs but then stalled, and the first of several short punts put Loudon in business near midfield.

The Redskins marched downfield but faced a fourth-and-goal at the three. Harig found Hayden Brown for a 3-yard strike and opening score.

Another short Greenback punt set Loudon up at the Cherokee 44-yard line. Loudon converted on two successive third downs then faced fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, where Harig found a seam inside to run in for a second score, denying the Greenback defense the big momentum shift.

Greenback escaped another quick Loudon score when Semy Turner took an apparent touchdown pass but fumbled as he turned to step into the end zone. Micah Franklin scooped up the loose ball, but a bad exchange from center four plays later led to a Greenback turnover and Loudon needed just one play to make the Cherokees pay, with Harig hitting Braeden Fray for a 21-0 halftime lead.

The son of Loudon coach Jeff Harig, the senior quarterback Keaton Harig finished 25-of-35 for 270 yards and added 33 rushing yards despite being sacked four times by a strong Cherokee rush led by Braden Matoy and Jeremiah Cope.

Payne’s second interception early in the third quarter led to Greenback’s first score. Micah Franklin threw across the grain to a wide-open Folsom Silver for a 10-yard strike, but the extra-point attempt was a wobbling duck.

Loudon replied quickly and scored on another touchdown pass, a 2-yard Harig toss to Turner.

After the final Loudon score on a 5-yard Harig pass, a kickoff that seemed headed for the end zone instead took a sudden left turn and Greenback was pinned at its 2-yard line.

Undeterred and unbowed, the Cherokees moved downfield on a 13-play drive, but fell short when Franklin’s fourth-down pass from the 4-yard line was blocked.

With Kooper Willliams taking over for Franklin, Greenback managed one final score on a 52-yard drive featuring some hard running from Landon Clifford and a 5-yard scoring rush from Williams.

Franklin provided the large bulk of the Cherokees offense. The senior rushed 21 times for 90 yards and added 69 yards through the air with five completions on 13 attempts.

“We wanted to compete for four quarters and we did that well, I thought,” Edmiston said. “We still had too many mistakes, but the effort was there throughout.”

Greenback travels for an important match at Coalfield, the only other undefeated team in play within Region 2-A, on October 1.

This account is used by The Daily Times freelance sports writers and for staff reports.

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