The Greenback football team has plenty to play for tonight (Friday, Oct 11) at Coalfield.
Both teams enter the matchup up with undefeated Region 2-A records. However, because Coalfield has played in more region games, the Yellow Jackets currently occupy the top spot.
Greenback is eager the change that.
“It’s a big game for us for several reasons,” Greenback coach Greg Ryan said. “Number one, it’s possibly for the region championship and, number two, it’s for the right to have the playoff games at home.”
Greenback (4-2, 2-0) swept Coalfield (6-1, 4-0) last year and has been improving every week this season. The Cherokees are on a four-game winning streak while Coalfield has won its last five.
“Coalfield always plays us tough,” Ryan said. “It’s two small communities that respect one another. No matter what the record is, you always know you’re going to get a hard-nosed football game when you play Coalfield.”
Last season, Greenback defeated Coalfield, 49-0, during the regular season and 35-7 in the state quarterfinals. The only common opponent the teams have shared this season is Sunbright. Greenback beat the Tigers, 61-20, and Coalfield won 54-6.
Things are currently clicking on all fronts for the Cherokees, who have averaged more than 45 points in their last four games while allowing those opponents less than nine points, on average.
A major factor behind Greenback’s growth offensively has been Maryville transfer Braden Carnes at quarterback. In the Cherokees’ most recent matchup against Lenoir City, Carnes was 12-for-18 for 329 yards and five touchdowns in their 51-7 victory. Holden Willis caught four of those touchdown passes while finishing with five receptions for 206 yards.
Ryan also credited the offensive line’s pass protection for allowing the Cherokees to be successful through the air.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence right now in the passing game,” Ryan said. “It has been successful for us over the past few weeks, and we just keep getting better and better. Carnes is understanding the offense and putting us in a good spot there.”
Coalfield, on the other hand, is more of a run-heavy team. Starting at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets is Peyton McKinney — a former wide receiver.
“He’s a better runner than he is thrower, but he can throw the ball well,” Ryan said. “Anytime the quarterback can run it, it makes you defend the entire field.”
The Yellow Jackets also boast a talented power back in Seth Lowe, who Ryan said “runs it straight at you.”
Greenback had no trouble slowing Coalfield down last year. After shutting out the Yellow Jackets, the Cherokees limited them to 109 total yards, including 36 rushing yards on 29 attempts, to end Coalfield’s season.
Greenback is coming off a bye week. Ryan said that time off could benefit or hurt the Cherokees given they were on a roll. He’ll find out Friday.
“But as far as how we’re playing, we’re steadily improving,” Ryan said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask for. If we can continue to improve each week, we’ll be a pretty tough team come playoff time.”