Greeneville soccer fell behind early, but quickly battled back to mow its way through the Red Devils of Halls and claim a 6-1 victory in the Class AA State Sectionals to advance to its 11th consecutive appearance in the State Tournament.
“It feels really nice,” Greeneville coach Jerry Graham said. “Another chance to try to go down there and try to win a state championship and playing with the best is just a great opportunity.”
The Red Devils capitalized first and added a goal in the opening stages to apply the pressure to Greeneville.
Drew Shelton would attempt to pull even with a shot from outside the box that was blocked and saved by Justin King. Blake Rogers came close to surprising everyone and tried sneaking one past the keeper from an angle, but a quick reaction led to another save.
Jacob Eubanks played a ball over his head and had it land at his feet for a quick shot that Greeneville keeper Aiden Creech was able to read perfectly and push out of bounds.
The Greene Devils saw their fortune change in the 24th minute after a deflected header landed in front of Blake Rogers and became the equalizer.
Greeneville would be on the attack for the next goal that would lead them to the promise land.
Connor Stayton came close to adding another goal soon after on a pass after a free kick. Justin King made the save right before it crossed the line to keep the game tied. Austin Beets had a wide open field of grass ahead of him, but a questionable offsides call negated his opportunity.
The go-ahead goal wouldn’t take long to finally come to fruition. Drew Shelton nailed a shot that King couldn’t keep control of and Blake Rogers was in position once again to tap it in the back of the net and put the Green Devils out front 2-1.
“It takes a lot of discipline,” Coach Graham stated. “Just follow every single shot and with his speed coming from that side he capitalized on the first two goals it was tremendous. It’s those runs that you make 90% of the time and you don’t score. But the 10% that you are there, they’re goals.”
Aiden Creech wanted to sit on that lead longer and charged an incoming striker to meet him halfway and deflect a shot away from danger.
Greeneville would climb back from an early deficit to hold a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Out of the half, Landyn White almost nailed a header on a corner kick with a leap in the air above everyone. The shot sailed just over the crossbar, but set the tone for how aggressive the Greene Devils planned on playing in the second half.
Brady Quillen fired away from beyond 30 yards and Drew Hillyer landed a free kick into King’s hands, but the Devils wouldn’t give up and kept pushing toward scoring another goal.
They finally cracked the code with Stayton firing one into net and easing the tension on Greeneville’s sideline. Stayton’s strike gave them a 3-1 lead with plenty of time still left to go.
A two-goal lead wasn’t comfortable enough for Greeneville’s sideline with over 30 minutes still remaining on the clock and they were adamant to keep pounding away.
Coach Graham mentioned, “They’ll tell you that the most dangerous lead in soccer is a two goal lead because sometimes when you get up two your team can get complacent. We, on the other hand, at halftime talked about if we get another goal to fall to try to keep pressing even harder.”
Beets sent the sideline into a frenzy with another goal in the 60th minute to seemingly put the game away and punch Greeneville’s ticket to state.
The sophomore forward dribbled through multiple defenders in the box and sent a rocket that had no chance of being stopped into the back of the netting.
Shelton almost added his own goal with a missile over King that bounced off the crossbar and landed on the line but didn’t cross for a goal.
Blayden Norton hopped off the bench and wanted to get a taste of the scoring for himself. Norton sent a beautiful ball curving past King and into the top right to extend the Greene Devil lead to 5-1.
“He’s another junior that has great speed and great technical ability and it was just at the right time,” Coach Graham bragged on his reserve. “Zack Barnes did an amazing job bringing it down the right side and just slotted a perfect ball over there to him. It was a great finish by Blayden. I’m real happy for those two guys right there cause they obviously came up big when we needed them.”
Shelton would finally add one to the scoreboard with a goal late in the 79th minute. A beautiful ball was placed over King’s head and put the final nail in the coffin on the afternoon.
Greeneville capped off the evening with a 6-1 win to cruise into a spot in the Class AA State Tournament next week In Murfreesboro.