Third time is a charm.
Greenback claimed its first state championship since 1987 on Thursday with a 42-21 victory over Cornersville in the BlueCross Bowl inside Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium after falling short the past two seasons in Cookeville.
The Cherokees (13-1) entered the second quarter tied at 14, but proceeded to score 28 consecutive points en route to the win.
The run was ignited by junior defensive lineman Reese Plemons, who forced fumble and recovered it on the Cornersville one-yard line a play after Greenback failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal. Three plays later, junior quarterback Bryce Hanley connected with junior wide receiver Seth Riddle — the first of two touchdowns between the two — to put the Cherokees up 21-14.
Junior running back Breeden Gilbert extended that lead with a rushing touchdown 25 seconds before halftime, and then the Cherokees scored on their first two possessions of the second half.
Greenback torched Cornersville (13-2) on the ground, rushing for 308 yards on 50 carries. Hanley led the way, rushing for a game-high 116 yards on 14 carries, while also completing 12 of his 20 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior running back Josh Edwards added 109 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, while Gilbert tacked on 88 yards and a score on 16 carries.
The Cherokee defense limited the Bulldogs to just 232 total yards, and both scores to Darien Bush in the first quarter, which combined for 73 yards, both came on balls that went right through a Greenback defender’s hands.
Entering this year, there was doubt that Greenback could end their state title drought because of the departures of star players like Kayne Roberts, who was the first player in program history to sign to a FBS school (North Carolina), Josh Silvey, a Mr. Football winner from a year ago, and Hunter Willis and Tavin Kilpatrick, who both play at Tennessee Tech now.
Those players helped put the Cherokees on the map, amassing a 26-4 record and making two BlueCross Bowl appearances over the past two years, but capped both seasons by watching another team hoist a championship trophy in the air.
This year’s group, however, learned from that disappointment and changed the ending. This time, they are the ones celebrating a title.