Coalfield ends Greenback's season in trenches

Bryan Lynn | News-Herald

Greenback School’s Jeremiah Cope reacts to a call Friday in the Cherokees’ 26-21 loss to the Coalfield School Yellowjackets in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.

Greenback’s season ended Friday night by coming up inches short on two drives inside the Coalfield 2-yard line.

At the end of the first half and again late in the fourth quarter, Greenback failed to come up with points after drives moved deep into the red zone.

Coalfield (11-0) used a ball-control rushing game to limit further Cherokee chances and came away with the 26-21 victory in the Class 1A second-round playoff game.

After Greenback (5-7) clawed back from a 20-7 halftime deficit to go up 21-20 on a 90-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by junior Micah Franklin, Coalfield pulled back in front but failed for a third time on a 2-point conversion attempt.

Greenback countered with a 66-yard drive, but needed 67 to reclaim the lead. After Blake Fields pulled in a 4th-and-16 pass from Micah Franklin at the 3-yard line, the Cherokees rammed the line three straight plays but came up short.

Austin Burger ran wide on first down for 1 yard and punched inside for one more but Franklin came up short on third down. Inserting a jumbo package, Greenback lineman Braden Matoy slammed into the middle and Greenback players signaled for the score, but the referees disagreed.

“Our guys made a fantastic effort and I take 100 percent of the blame because you can’t get the ball inside the 1-yard line on two possessions and not come away with points,” Greg Ryan, Greenback head football coach, said. “I should have called better plays.”

With Coalfield pinned at the 1-yard line and ample time remaining, the Cherokee defense stuffed the Yellow Jackets on two running plays, but quarterback Cole Hines completed the second of just two pass attempts on the night.

The gutsy 3rd-and-9 pass attempt went for a 17-yard pickup. Coalfield then ground out two more first downs to run out the clock.

Coalfield scored on the opening possession of the game on six straight runs. On the last play of the quarter, Greenback countered with a touchdown and Holmes extra-point for a 7-6 lead, but Coalfield, which finished with 312 rushing yards on 50 carries, responded with an 11-play, all-run drive.

One converted 2-point play gave Coalfield a 20-7 lead, but Greenback responded with a long march, converting one fourth down play on the way with a short Franklin run to the 4-yard line. Two passes netted just 3 yards and Franklin was stopped short as time expired with Coalfield holding the two-score lead.

Greenback regained momentum with a long successful drive to open the third quarter, but Coalfield’s full-house backfield still seemed unstoppable. The Yellow Jackets moved to the 10-yard line on 12 plays, but top rusher Seth Lowe was stripped. Franklin picked up the loose ball and spurted 90 yards for a 21-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Never wilting or moving away from a potent ground game, Coalfield kept punching out yards on the next attempt and scored what turned out to be the clincher on a 25-yard bolt from Landon Lowe.

Franklin completed five passes in seven attempts to move the Cherokees deep for the chance to retake the lead with the clock under three minutes.

In addition to his scoop-and-score, junior quarterback Franklin finished 16-of-21 for 190 yards in the air and was Greenback’s leading rusher with 64 yards on 18 carries.

“(Franklin) is a great athlete,” Ryan said. “He’s never played quarterback until this year. We’ve asked him to do more and more as the season went on. We’re really proud of his development and he’s got a big future to come.”