Morristown East stunned Greeneville with a touchdown just 15 seconds into the game but the top-ranked Greene Devils roared from behind for a 49-7 triumph Friday night at Burke-Toney Stadium.
It was senior night for East but the great start was all the Hurricanes accomplished as Mason Gudger scored four touchdowns and the visitors wrapped up a perfect regular season at 10-0.
East slipped to1-8 for the season and closes the year at William Blount on Friday.
Gudger rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries with all his touchdowns coming on runs of less than 10 yards (8, 4, 4 and 7 yards).
The Greene Devils also got a one-yard TD from quarterback Brady Quillen who also tossed scoring passes of 19 yards to Mason Laws and 49 yards to Jakobi Gillespie.
Greeneville finished the night with 115 yards rushing to go along with 265 passing and completed 13 of 16 attempts.
The ‘Canes, who failed to convert a third down in all nine chances, had 113 on the ground and quarterback Eli Seals connected on 3 of 7 for 55 yards including a 39-yard TD to Micah Simpson on the game’s second play from scrimmage.
Ryan Adams led East with 61 yards on 12 carries while Ethan Ledford had 39 on a dozen attempts. Ledford, only a junior, now has 883 yards and will need 117 in the finale to join Jessie Smith as the only Hurricanes in history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
East honored its seniors in all fall sports in pregame ceremonies with senior cheerleaders, ROTC and band members also included in the 40 honorees.
The 13 football seniors then went out and grabbed the lead over the state’s No. 1 Class 4-A squad.
Hurricanes coach Caleb Slover stated, “I thought our kids played really, really hard all night.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start than coming out and getting a turnover on the first play and then scoring on our first play,” he said. “All of a sudden, we’re up 7-0. But they drive down and score and we respond a little bit but couldn’t score.”
Slover continued, “You know, they’re a good team. They outmanned us a little bit on the outside and took advantage of that. I thought we did a really good job against the run defensively.
“They broke some screens and did some things like that that got us,” he added. “For us offensively, they did what we said they would all week, that they were going to be really good up front defensively and the linebackers were going to play really well and they did.”
Slover went on to say, “We had another chance to score early in the game but a penalty really hurt.”
East actually had only two five-yard penalties after getting flagged 79 times for 762 yards in its first eight games.
“We cleaned up the penalties and did the things we needed to do,” said Slover. “I thought Eli played great tonight. He ran it when he needed to and took care of the football. He didn’t force anything when he was under pressure.”
Slover closed, “But Greeneville is ranked No. 1 for a reason. They are a really good football team.”
Greeneville came into the game averaging 56 points per contest and had scored on its first possession in every game.
However, that first possession didn’t last long on Friday as the ball popped loose on the first play from scrimmage and East’s Trevor Foulks pounced on the prize at the Devils’ 39.
On the next play, Seals dropped back and lofted a perfect pass to Simpson who was running a slant over the middle. Simpson gathered the ball in for his school-record 22nd career touchdown reception. Freddie Reveria kicked the point after with 7:45 left in the first quarter.
The Greene Devils responded exactly as you would expect a good team to do with an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive. They converted two third downs and on fourth on the march.
Quillen had a 10-yard keeper on third-and-two and Gudger had a four-yard gain on third down that put the ball at the East 48. Quillen then tossed a 31-yard pass to Laws and Gudger gained six.
The Devils got back-to-back motion penalties that put them in second-and-14. Gillespie got his first catch of the night for 10 yards and Gudger gained three leaving the visitors at fourth-and-one at the East eight. After a couple of East time outs, Gudger scored and Cooper Graham kicked the PAT to tie the score with 7:10 left in the first.
That was enough time for two more Greeneville touchdowns before the period ended.
East went three-and-out and punted with Gillespie returning 26 yards to his 49. Gudger ran for 15 before Adjatay Dabbs went in motion, took a forward pitch and rambled 35 yards to the one. Quillen scored on a sneak on the next play and Graham converted at the 3:26 mark.
Graham sent a very high kickoff to the East 25 that was allowed to hit the ground and bounce. Cooper Johnson recovered the free football at the East 30 and the Devils were in business again.
Quillen threw to Dabbs for 26 on the first play and Gudger scored on the next. Graham made it 21-7.
East tried to rally. Starting at their 24, the Hurricanes got a first down on a fourth-down sneak by Seals who then passed to Ledford for a gain of nine to the 43 on the final play if the first stanza.
Ledford gained two and a first down. Simpson gained eight on a reverse and Adams got eight more and a first down at the Devils’ 39.
A delay penalty cost the home team five yards and three plays later the ball popped free and Greeneville’s Terry Grove recovered at the Greeneville 42 to end the threat.
On the first play, a pass to Gillespie lost two yards and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put the visitors at second-and-27 at their 25. Gudger ran for four and a pass to Gillespie netted 16 yards before an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs at the Devils’ 45.
But East backed itself up with a motion penalty and a fake punt on fourth down lost three yards with Greeneville taking over at its 47.
It took four plays to score. Gudger gained 12 and Gillespie got 21 on a middle screen. Two plays later, Quillen threw to Laws for a 19-yard TD. Graham made it 28-7 with 3:50 left in the half.
East was three-and-out again and Gudger returned the punt 14 yards to the East 41. Quillen passed to Jaden Stevenson for 30 on the first play. Gudger got the points again as he ran for seven and then a four-yard TD. Graham made it 35-7 with 1:57 to go in the half.
The Hurricanes failed to move the sticks after the second-half kickoff and Greeneville went 76 yards in 6 plays to start a running clock with 7:29 left in the third.
Gudger started the drive with runs of 6 and 13. On a fourth-and-two, Quillen hit Gillespie with a quick out. After a missed tackle, Gillespie took the ball 49 yards to paydirt and Graham made it 42-7.
After East went three-and-out one more time, Gillespie fielded a punt at his own 47 and returned 30 yards to the East 23 and the Devils scored in two plays. Quillen threw to Laws on the first play and Gudger ran it in from seven yards out on the next. Graham kicked the point to close the scoring with 2:54 left in the third.
East put together its best offensive push of the night, getting four first downs in moving from its 25 to the Devils 17. However, a 33-yard field goal attempt by Justin Flores was blocked. Trevor Malone picked up the ball and ran to the 13 where the Devils took over.
A bad snap put the ball back at the two but the visitors threw out of their endzone before punting for the only time all night.