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Greeneville Devils win back-to-back state championships

Greeneville Devils win back-to-back state championships

By Bill Sorrell

Greeneville High School quarterback Cade Ballard did not get much sleep the days following Thanksgiving.

He and his football team drove 250 miles to Nashville on Nov. 23 to play Maplewood, a game they won 43-8, in the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs.

Ballard was in Nashville on Nov. 25 where he was named Class 4A Mr. Football for the second straight year.

Playing Brownsville Haywood for the state championship on Nov. 29, Ballard made a 175-mile trip to Cookeville.

“Mr.Football on Sunday, a lot of travelling. I didn’t go to bed before 1 o’clock any day this week,” said Ballard after the state championship game.

Winning their 30th straight game and a back-to-back state championship, the Greene Devils (15-0) toppled the Tomcats 56-21 at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in the Blue Cross Bowl.

It was the last game Ballard would play for his father, Greeneville head coach Caine Ballard.

“What a way to go out. What a week it was. It means everything to go outwith my dad like we did. To go 30-0, to have the career I’ve had, to have the decade in that program that I’ve had. What an amazing way to go out with some great dudes that I’ve grown up with. I’m so blessed to be in this position,” said Cade Ballard.

Hisemotions spilled over when his father took the team on the field again after receiving the Gold Ball, the state championship trophy.

“It hit me real fast. This is the last time I take this thing (his green No. 2 jersey), play for that community and play for my dad, what an amazing way to go out. I remember all the crazy stuff that we’ve(teammates) done in the the 17 years we’ve been alive. We’ve been together a long time and done some crazy stuff and made some great memories. This (state championship) is an unbelievable deed.

“The culture that has been created at Greeneville High School. We have grinded. Some of us have grinded for a decade, day after day for years to be able to do this. What a culture we have and it showed tonight.”

Ballardwas asked what he would tell his children 15 years from now about the week.

“If I don’ get choked up, (I’d say) it is unbelievable. This is the greatest year so far in my life, its’ not even close. What a great time for me to be alive in Greeneville and what a great time for me to be alive playing for Dad. That is the American dream and I’ve lived it. I’m living on top of the world right now.

Asked what kind of relationship he has with his father, Cade said, “Oh man, the best you can have. I’ve been so blessed. I couldn’t have asked for better parents.”

Caine Ballard said, “As a dad, I’m so happy for him. That was my fear and anxiety all year long, can we do this again with this group of guys so I wanted it to end this way and so blessed and thankful that it did. There are a lot of memories. It’s a special time. Every father would enjoy doing that (coaching his son to a state championship). Cade is a special young man who does everything and more than we ask of him. I’m so proud and happy for him.

“I’m proud of the whole Greene Devil family. I thought we played reallywell. I’m obviously excited to death for Cade but not just Cade, but our whole football team. We played an excellent football game. We beat a really good team.”

After being an assistant coach at Greeneville, Caine Ballard became head coach in 2009. He also coached the Greene Devils to state championships in 2010 and 2011.

“Thereis no secret to what is going here, a ton of hard work by a lot of people. We have a lot of people invested in this thing. When you invest heavily you are going to fight for it and you saw the results of that tonight. A long time ago they were 7 or 8 years old playing for the Bears and the Patriots and playing in Little League. There was a buzz about them. Then they got to middle school and they are really, really good in middle school,” said Caine Ballard.

“I knew if we could keep them together and keep them bought in and work,I knew they had an opportunity to be special. It’s a tight bond.Those guys are so tight in the locker room. It’s so awesome. Nobody cares who gets the credit. They just want to get it done and there’s a lot of love and togetherness. That comes from the work they put in.

“The leadership of the guys, the character of the guys. There are some awesome dudes in that locker room who are going to go on and do some big-time things in life.”

A senior, Cade Ballard has committed to play for Army next season.Before the state championship game, he had thrown for 2,955 yards,ran for 681 yards and had a combined 56 passing and rushing touchdowns.

He was on the road again. He was quarterback for the East All-Stars in the Toyota East v. West Football Classic at Austin Peay State University Dec. 7 in Clarksville.

In the all-star game, Ballard competed against West All-Stars from Shelby-Metro including running back Kenneth Walker of Arlington, wide receiver Cameron Baker of Germantown, wide receiver Devin Boddie of Whitehaven, tight end Conner Richardson of Germantown, offensive tackle Matt Needham of Houston, offensive guard Kip Frankland ofHouston, outside linebacker Shomar Michael of Germantown, defensivelineman Jacobi Rice of Whitehaven, defensive end Jerwin Young of Haywood, defensive end Tyler Hunter of Whitehaven, offensive guard Zach Yates of Briarcrest, offensive tackle Matthew Bedford of Cordova.

Against Haywood, “we came out and played so great together,” said Ballard, who scored four touchdowns, including three straight in the second and third quarter to put the game out of reach, expanding a 28-21 Greene Devils lead to 49-21.

Rushing for 152 yards on 19 carries and completing 7 of 10 passes for 95 yards, Ballard was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“The MVP could have gone to anybody because our offensive line, running backs, our defense getting the ball back for us, it’s a blessing. To be in a better game against a way-better opponent was a lot better.What a blessing to be here and do it again and it might be more special (than 2017) as a senior going out like this.”

The Greene Devils defeated Springfield, which upset Haywood in the semifinals in 2017, in last year’s state championship game 54-13.

The Greene Devils had 493 yards total offense against Haywood, which got 208 yards.

Jaevon Gillespie, the grandson of NHRA drag racer Allen Johnson, rushed for 173 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns wile Ty Youngblood gained 69 yards on 15 carries and scored twice.

The first six possessions of the game, each team scored a touchdown.

Cade Ballard was concerned about Haywood’s speed.

“They can fly. Everybody can fly. Their slowest guy might have been able to out run everybody we have. They are huge up front,” he said.

Before the game Caine Ballard told his team that the Tomcats “are a great football team, a very talented team. They are going to make some plays. I didn’t know they were gong to make the first one on the opening kickoff.

“Cej (Jones) is a 90 per cent touch back guy and we had the wind behind us.We missed there a little bit and when we did, I held my breath. I know how fast they are. They popped that big play on us and it was on from there. We were in a track meet for a little while. I anticipated big plays. I prepared our team. We can live with two big ones, we can’t give up five or six and we able to win.”

Forthe first time this season, Haywood’s Taylor Shields returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. He ran 96 yards.

“I thought it set the tone for the title shot,” said Shields, a senior wide receiver. “It means a lot, especially here, the last game of my career in high school.”

In October, his father Patrick Shields was been hailed a hero. After the homecoming football game, a fight broke out in the stadium parking lot.

Hearing gun shots, Shields, who had served in the U.S. Army National Guard 22 years, saw the teenage gunman and tackled him. Brownsville Police took him into custody and charged him with criminal attempt to commit first degree murder, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment according to a report broadcasted by Jackson TV station WBBJ.

Reid Russell kicked the PAT and the Tomcats led 7-0.

Haywoodhead coach Stephen Hookfin said, “I was thinking what a great way to open the game.”

The Tomcats (10-5) entered the game on an 8-game winning streak. They were 2-4 on Sept. 21 after losing to Memphis University School 54-28.

The Tomcats lost to two teams that played for state championships, MUS and Henry County, which won 29-26 on Aug. 17. They lost to Dyersburg 48-14 on Sept. 14. The Trojans were 12-0 when they met Haywood in the quarterfinals. Haywood won the rematch 47-14. The Tomcats lost to Briarcrest 30-28.

“Wetook three losses straight in a row. We couldn’t take it any more. We had to turn it back around and get back on our feet and keep moving.They (Greene Devils) wanted it bad. We wanted it bad but came up short. We wanted to bring the Gold Ball back home. We left a mark on them to let them know that we are still Haywood. They felt us. I tell you that. The whole team no doubt felt Haywood,” said senior running back Decourtney Reed, whose father and uncles played on the last Haywood team to play for a state championship in 1994 and 1995.

That was the most satisfying win of the season said Haywood linebacker Trotavious Green was defeating Dyersburg.

Hookfin called the season “great. There’s no doubt about it.Anytime you make it to the Blue Cross Bowl, it’s a great season no matter how you get there.

“Itwas a great experience for us and our program and what we are trying to get to. You talk about semifinals and you follow that up with a state championship appearance. We beat Springfield 49-14 in the semis after losing 35-28 last year. These seniors have done a great job of laying a great foundation for our young guys. They taught us how to get here. Now we’ve got to learn how to win once we are here.”

Reed said it was a “tough loss. We still fought hard. It let us know that we are able and we are still going to be able the rest of our lives. To get to this moment we accomplised a goal and that was to get to stae. All year round we worked our butt off. We made it but we came up short. You have just got to keep balling, keep fighting.”

Through tears, Haywood quarterback Deyondrius Hines, “It hurts but I’m still happy that me and my boys made it real far. The only thing that would have satisfied me would have brought that Gold Ball back. I’m still proud of them and glad for everything we did. It was a great season overall. We came back. A lot of us were down when our record was bad.”

The Tomcats’ game plan against Greeneville was “to do what we have been doing” said Hoofkin.

“We were a little short-handed. One of our better players Darion Williamson (linebacker) was out.”

Hines and Reed were forced to play on the defensive line which they had not done all season.

“But that is part of it,” said Hookfin. “You’ve got to adjust to overcome. I think those to guys got tired as the game went on with them having to play defense.”

Both seniors, Hines and Reed led Haywood’s offense. Reed rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries and Hines ran for 90 yards on 14 carries. Hines completed one pass for 7 yards. Shields caught that.

Hookfin said that Hines and Reed they played well offensively.

“The O-line did a great job. Derrion Bell (senior defensive lineman) played lights out. I thought the team did a great job. There were some times we lost our composure a little bit. Overall the guys did a great job representing themselves, our families, their community.These young men believe in each other. I don’t think it was anything the coach did or coach said (of the 8-game winning streak). The old saying, “Coaches don’t make players great. Players make coaches. I’ve been very fortunate over my coaching career to have some darn good football players.”

Ballard’s 15-yard pass to Dorien Goddard sparked an 8-play, 65-yard drive that got the Greene Devils their first touchdown, a 3-yard run by Young blood. Ballard’s 14-yard run to the Haywood 11 set up Youngblood’s touchdown. Jones was perfect on the PAT and would be seven more times.

Haywood took a 14-7 lead when Hines ran 49 yards for a touchdown. Greeneville tied the game on an 8-play, 61 yard drive that took as long as the first touchdown drive, 4:02.

A 20-yard run by Gillespie, a 10-yard Ballard pass to Goddard led to Ballard’s 2-yard touchdown run. It was 14-14 at the end of the first quarter but Haywood was moving again.

A 37-yard run by Reed, his longest of the game, put the Tomcats on the Greene Devils 28. Reed would later run for a 12-yard touchdown and Russell kicked it to 21-14.

Ballard’s 61-yard run followed Youngblood’s 12-yard run and the Greene Devils were on the Haywood 7. Youngblood then ran 7 yards for a touchdown and Jones tied it at 21-21 with 11:11 left in the second quarter.

“Our speed was definitely a problem for Greeneville but again I think it was less about what we didn’t do and more about what Greeneville did.They had a great game plan,” said Hookfin.

“Itwas a ball game for a long time. It was a lot closer than the score indicated. We had a couple of turnovers at inopportune times. They capitalized on them.”

What turned the game around said Caine Ballard was Haywood’s fumble after the Greene Devils had taken a 28-21 lead in the second quarter.

Making the first stop of the game, Haywood’s Andrew Stanley was forced to punt from his 40. His 36-yard punt when to the Greeneville 24.

Ballard rushed for 11 yards and Ballard threw a 21-yard pass to Cameron Hite,a Wake Forest commit, to the Grenneville 49-yard line. Ballard escaped a hurry by Haywood’s Young.

Gillespie than rushed for 51 yards for a touchdown and the Greene Devil’s first lead of the game, 28-21.

“I told our guys if we can get a stop this thing will change and we got the big turnover and that is what started the turn,” said Caine Ballard. “We are in a track meet. Nobody can stop anybody. I was really impressed with our guys. We have got to get a stop. We got that stop.”

With Haywood on its 38, Logan Shipley forced Hines to fumble. Shipley recovered at the 27.

Ballard rushed for 11 yards for a touchdown with 5:15 left in the second quarter and a 35-21 lead.

“We got them in the box, we ran over them. We delivered a knock out blow. It’s starting right now baby, it’s starting right now,”said Cade Ballard.

The Tomcats would drive to the Greene Devils 28-yard line before Hines was sacked for an 8-yard loss. Hines completed a 7-yard pass to Shields to the Haywood 45, the Cats’ only completion of the three attempted.

Reed rushed for 16 yards in the drive. Young sacked Ballard for a 14-yard loss on the last play of the first half.

Ballard had rushed for 76 yards by halftime, Gillespie 85, Youngblood 56. Reed had rushed for 89 yards, Hines 80.

“We could not turn the ball over that was a big thing and we didn’t for the most part. They stopped us on fourth down before the half. We had to make some good adjustments to stop them from getting on the edge and open some holes up in the middle. We knew we were going to get stops and find a way to win the game,” said Cade Ballard.

The Greene Devils’ plan was to slow the Tomcats down in the second half.

A 10-play 63-yard drive that took 8:01 off the third quarter clock doubled Greeneville’s lead 42-21. Ballard ran 37 yards for a touchdown with 6:59 left in the third.

Another fumble led to another touchdown for the Greene Devils. After a 10-yard run by Hines, Tennessee commit Will Albright forced him to fumble. Shipley recovered at the 50-yard line.

Gillespie than ran 10 yards, Ballard 8, Gillespie again for 10 to the Haywood 21. Gillespie ran to the 10 and Ballard scored his fourth TD.Jones made it 49-21 with 3:46 left.

The Tomcats stopped Greeneville on fourth down at their 29. But Haywood was forced to punt.

Gillespie rushed for 12 yards. Ballard threw a 16-yard pass to Goddard, a University of Virginia commit, Ballard ran for 8 yards and Gillespie’s 20-yard touchdown run topped the 68-yard, 5-play drive. Jones scored the last point of the 2018 season, 56-21.

“Everybody (stood out),” said Cade Ballard. “Our offensive line, Jaevon Gillespie, Ty Youngblood. Our whole defense. Our coaching staff. Everybody played great.”

Caine Ballard said, “You better brag on the offensive line. We were awful good running the football but you’ve got to cover the whole field. We had a lot of talent on the edge and you have to be good upfront when you have to stop Ty Youngblood and Javeon Gillespie. I think Javeon had the best game of his career at running back. You got Cade running and throwing, it puts the defense in a bad situation.”

Young led Haywood with 8.5 tackles including 8 solos. He had Haywood’s only sack, 14 yards, and tackles for losses of 16 yards. Hines had 7 tackles, Green 7 tackles, Xavier King 5.5 tackles.

Hiteled the Greene Devils with 6.5 tackles. Youngblood had 5.5, Kenny Kershaw 3.5. Trent Knight had the Greene Devils’ only sack, 8 yards. Along with Shipley, Youngblood recovered a fumble. Youngblood, Shipley, Knight, Garrin Shuffler each had one tackle for losses of 12 yards.

Shuffler had 40 yards in kickoff returns, Goddard 24. Stanley averaged 35 yards on three Haywood punts. Greeneville did not punt. Goddard had 52 yards receiving and Hite 43.

“They had a good team but we could have pushed more,” said Green. “The thing that made me happy, we made it in the long run. Although we were down during the regular season and took a good losing streak, we managed to bounce back and come together. I love my guys.”

Hines said being a leader for the Tomcats meant a lot.

“It has helped me and made me step up a lot in certain moments. It made me motivate my teammates more and made me become a better leader.”

A member of First Baptist Church in Greeneville, Cade Ballard said that his faith has helped him. He made a profession of faith in Christ on Jan. 21, 2009. He was baptized soon afterwards.

John3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” is his favorite Bible verse.

“I pray a lot. I’ve had a lot of answered prayers and the will to keep going. That is what Jesus was all about. He kept going and persevering and that is what it is all about,” said Ballard.

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