Musings from the sports desk: Red-hot, defensively stout Rams haven’t yet reached their ceiling
By BRANDON HURLEY
Ignore last week’s box score for a moment.
Yes, it’s a thing of beauty and deserves its rightful place in the Greene County High School trophy case, but it’s not the entire story.
The offense isn’t the sole catalyst for a scorching hot start to the 2018 season.
In fact, there are a bevy of factors to this record-breaking pace, but I’ll steer you toward a pair of key points that have meant a world of a difference to the undefeated and seventh-ranked Greene County Rams.
No. 1, of course is that incredibly stout defense, an 11-man front that’s allowing just 5.3 points per game while each of their three opponents under 100 yards rushing. The second factor is something the casual fan isn’t likely to notice on the field.
It’s Greene County’s dedication in the film room. Ask anyone on the coaching staff and any number of veterans, immersing themselves into the game tape has done wonders for a once floundering program. It’s helped the athletes adapt to Moore’s defensive game plan while also allowing them to key in on different sets quicker.
Trey Hinote, who took an interception back 35 yards for a score Friday, notices the change.
“We just know (the defense) now. We break down film so deep,” Hinote said. “If coach calls one play and they’re in a different formation, then we need to check into something else. Our safeties, Carter (Morton) and Austin (Delp), they know what to check into. We have the power to change a play based on what we see as players.”
Let that quote set in for a second. Did a 2A athlete really just utter that detailed of a response? Greene County head coach Mitch Moore has done a remarkable job reshaping the culture of this program and it’s starting to show.
Film study is what Moore feels sets his program apart, as he attributes it to his experience at the college level, both coaching at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and at Iowa State University. He’s brought that detailed aspect to Jefferson and it’s worked ten-fold. “We watch so much film in college so that’s something that I’ve really stressed to our kids,” Moore said. “We had practice this (Tuesday) morning but we’re going to come in and get half an hour of film session in at night.
I think it’s been a huge part of our success because you can see what the other team’s doing and all the information is so readily available now compared to what it used to be 10 years ago.”
Moore continued, ”It really puts some of the onus on the kids. If you want to be great and get an advantage on your opponent, watch what they do. Our kids have really embraced that.”
Those two reasons alone – defense and film study – are why I see Greene County exceeding my preseason expectations of a 5-4 record, perhaps securing a district title that’s well within grasp and making noise in the playoffs.
The Rams have allowed just 16 points in three games, the best mark in the state, thanks to just two allowed touchdowns. The statistics from Friday’s game in particular are mind-boggling. The Rams forced EIGHT Saydel turnovers while holding the Eagles below 50 yards. Nick Breon and Brock Wuebker each had two sacks helping the Rams tally eight sacks in all while Wuebker recovered three fumbles.
The defense has forced 12 turnovers in three games, an average of four turnovers per contest. Their seven fumble recoveries are tied for first in 2A while their five interceptions are tied for second in the state.
Through three games, six Rams have at least 10 tackles led by Will Hansen’s team-leading 17.5 tackles and two sacks. It’s an ode to Greene County’s swarming team defense, as no particular athlete sticks out above the rest. Breon leads the team with three sacks while the Rams have recorded 11 team sacks, which is tied for the fourth best mark in 2A.
It’s that team-first mentality that has taken Greene County to the next level, Wuebker said.
“The key to our defense is everyone just flows to the ball. Everyone gang tackles,” the senior said. “When you do your own gap, and fulfill our own responsibilities, everyone plays really well together.”
Coach Moore points to a pride instilled in his guys over the last few weeks. They want to be out on defense, holding up their end as one of the best units in the state. They thrive off the gaudy statistics.
“Even though some of them are playing on offense, there’s just a different look in their eyes,” Moore said. “They’re really enjoying this reputation we’re earning as as being a run stopping defense. Those 11 guys really play well together.”
That enjoyment boils over to a heightened level of intensity, Moore said. There’s no stop in this defense.
“Their energy and their commitment to running to the football (is key),” Moore said. “One of our strengths of our team is our team speed, and we move faster sometimes on defense than we do on offense. We just pin our ears back, play really aggressive and run all 11 guys to the ball. That’s probably the staple of our defense right now.
Every guy on every play wants to make a tackle, whether it’s our safety, corner or our nose tackle. That helps when you play with that kind of energy.”
If the defense keeps playing as well as it has and the Rams continue to break down tape week-in and week-out, huge things could be in store.
Buckle up, folks, we are in for a wild ride.