There is no love lost between Greenback and Oliver Springs.
The Cherokees left their starters in for the majority of the fourth quarter in last season’s regular season meeting and capped the drubbing with a touchdown pass from then-senior quarterback Braden Carnes to 2019 Class 1A Mr. Football winner Holden Willis with four minutes, 22 seconds remaining. Greenback added another blowout victory over Oliver Springs in the quarterfinals.
Even after all of that, the bad blood has still not dissipated.
“It can’t be a rivalry until they beat us,” Greenback coach Greg Ryan told The Daily Times. “Their coach (Larry Green) told me at our region meeting this year that he felt they were getting closer (to us), but my thoughts were we beat them 88-0 last year in a combination of two games.
“They’re just another team on our schedule that we have to beat to win the region.”
Another rout will not come as easy this time around when Greenback (1-3, 1-0 Region 2-1A) travels to Oliver Springs (0-4, 0-0) on Friday for its first game against a Class 1A opponent after the Cherokees’ original region opener against Sunbright on Sept. 4 resulted in a forfeit victory because of COVID-19.
Losses to Class 3A quarterfinalist Loudon and Class 2A state runner-up Meigs County were understandable, but being a shutout twice before a 21-7 loss to Oneida last week resulted an longer-than-usual postgame chat in which Ryan challenged his players to have more pride than what they had shown through the first three games of the season.
“He was getting a point across,” senior Austin Burger said. “He was letting some of these guys know that they need to step up and get their stuff together, and I think everybody is stepping up. We’re listening more in practice and following what we’re supposed to do.”
Greenback has also made several changes to ensure its best players get more touches in an effort to spark an offense that is averaging 123 yards per game this season after racking up 368.8 a year ago.
William Blount transfer Micah Franklin will start at quarterback for the Cherokees after freshman signal caller Brennan Duggan started the first three games of the season. Franklin previously played running back, a position that senior Blake Fields will transition to from wide receiver.
“It has nothing to do with anything Duggan did, but the team just needs a spark,” Ryan said. “I’ve tried to do a good job of having weapons all over the field and distribute the ball to different people to make us harder to defend, but at this point, we have to find somebody that is willing to carry the load and go with it.”
A series of position changes may cure the Cherokees’ uncharacteristic struggles on offense, but they will also have to be better against the run than they were against Oneida when they allowed senior running back Kolby Morgan to gain 268 yards on the ground.
The Bobcats boast a run-first offense that rushed for 178 yards against Class 6A William Blount on Aug. 28.
Greenback believes it has a game plan capable of slowing down Oliver Springs to help secure a much-needed win against an opponent it relishes beating up on.
“I have two jobs as a head coach,” Ryan said. “No. 1 is to make sure the guys stay healthy and that I protect them to the best of my ability, and No. 2 is to make sure they have fun. I told them the other night that winning is what’s fun, so it’s time we start doing that.
“I fully expect the guys to come ready to play Friday, and then with the combination of some of the changes we’ve made, maybe it will make us better this week and we’ll continue to beat Oliver Springs like we’re accustomed to.”