Greenback struggles in loss to Oliver Springs

Greenback School's River Steele (76), Braden Matoy (55) and Ashton Orr (20) wrap up Oliver Springs High School's Gavin Hill on Friday in the Cherokees' 21-7 loss to the Bobcats.

Penalties, turnovers and poor execution plagued Greenback School for the fourth consecutive game, but the Cherokees had a chance to make a bid for their first on-field win in the fourth quarter against Oliver Springs.

All Greenback had to do was get off the field on 3rd-and-26 and give the offense an opportunity after a holding penalty seemingly stalled what looked like a game-sealing drive.

Oliver Springs junior quarterback Zack Elliott instead tossed a perfect ball to junior tight end Ty Laymance in one-on-one coverage for a 34-yard touchdown. The 21-7 defeat ended the Cherokees’ six-game winning streak over their district rival.

“They made plays and we didn’t,” Greg Ryan, Greenback head coach, said. “We just got outplayed. That’s the bottom line.”

Greenback (1-4, 1-1 Region 2-1A) was gifted good field position for a struggling offense, starting, on average, at its own 37-yard line on the seven possessions it had after a scoreless first quarter.

Three of those possessions featured penalties that forced the Cherokees to face second down with more than 10 yards to go or ended with turnovers. One resulted in a three-and-out and the other two non-scoring drives each came in the final minute of the half.

A Micah Franklin interception in the third quarter set up Oliver Springs (1-4, 1-0) in Greenback territory and six plays later Elliott scampered into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown.

“(Turnovers and penalties) are detrimental to every game, but when you are struggling on offense anyway, the biggest thing you can’t do is hurt yourself,” Ryan said. “We’re trying to find our identity, and when we’re changing what we do every week because we haven’t found that identity, it’s tough to get in the flow of the game.”

Greenback orchestrated its second touchdown drive of the season after falling behind 21-0, but an 11-play, 57-yard drive that took almost five minutes in the fourth quarter created a race against the clock.

The ensuing onside kick was touched well before it traveled 10 yards and the Bobcats ran 5:30 off the clock before giving the ball back to the Cherokees with 1:19 remaining.

Franklin made his first career start at quarterback after starting at running back for the first three games of the season. He completed 20 of his 28 passes for 115 yards while adding another 54 yards on the ground, including an 8-yard touchdown run.

Greenback averaged 3.8 yards per play — 44 plays, 167 total yards — with Franklin under center.

“I know we have a lot of good athletes. We just have to find a way to get them the ball,” Franklin said. “We just have to continue to work on things each week and continue to get better as a team.”

More than half of the Cherokees’ roster is composed of freshmen and sophomores. The same problems have haunted them through the first five weeks of the season.

Greenback’s next opportunity comes in the form of another rivalry game Friday against Lenoir City.

“We have to give it all we got,” Franklin said. “If anybody doesn’t want to play this game, then this isn’t the school to be at. The thing that Coach Ryan talks about is pride, and we have to have some.”

“The bottom line is we’re not a very good football team,” Ryan added. “We‘ve got potential, but what does potential mean? It doesn’t get you anywhere. People aren’t going to feel sorry for Greenback, so we’ll keep working hard and see what happens next week.”