THE EARLY LEAD: Did a blackout save Greene County’s once-in-a-generation season?
By Brandon Hurley
Panic quickly disappeared when the lights went darkest.
A sense of calm among a scene of chaos is one of the few defining traits of a champion.
Fifth-ranked Greene County flexed its intimidating experience in the closing moments of its week 2 victory and made Nevada pay.
With the odd, illuminating glow of Nevada’s state-of-the-art video board providing the only noticeable light, the Rams huddled together.
As the game stood at a stand-still with Greene County trailing 35-32 to unranked Nevada, they began processing all that had transpired up to that point. The Nevada stadium lights went dark at the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter, leaving the Rams searching for answers.
Three turnovers and a blown 18-point lead were the biggest culprits. Failure was perhaps Greene County’s biggest fear as they waited for the blackout to pass. T
his was their moment. An early season crossroads challenging the hungry Rams.
Would they seize the game, take advantage of essentially a second halftime and springboard their way to victory?
Or would they crumble under the pressure and shrivel back into mediocracy?
Greene County head coach Caden Duncan viewed the unusual pause as fresh start. He calmly spoke to his young athletes, encouraging each one of them.
“We were at a point in the game where we were on a lot of third and fourth string guys because we were having a lot of injuries and people were cramping and getting tired,” the coach said. “Our message was fresh start and it gives us time to catch our breath. Reload and come out and try and win the game.
Duncan continued, “They were pretty locked in. They took it as another half time.”
The Rams, fueled by veteran leadership, proceeded to score 10 points in the next four minutes, securing an unlikely victory in the face of disaster.
The lack of panic was a credit to Greene County’s established resiliency, as well as a peak into the Rams’ confidence.
As Duncan said in the post game huddle, a win like that was in dire need.
The blackout was the jolt that shifts a season.
It helped temper the hype, providing a reality check, one that suggested the Rams must trout out their best each and every week. There are no cakewalks in a potential march to the UNI Dome.
Greene County leaned on the leadership of their veterans, most notably their three-star offensive lineman, Tyler Miller. He helped keep his guys calm and encouraged his teammates to take care of their bodies.
“Everyone was upset. They thought maybe they were trying to sabotage us,” Miller said with a sly chuckle. “Honestly, it helped us out so much. It gave us a break. We stretched because we were having troubles with cramping, It was rough.”
Once the game restarted, it was all but over. The Rams scored 10 points in the next four minutes, and though Nevada would turn it into a nail-biter at the end, Greene County had flipped the script, preserving their second straight win.
The Rams had avoided a heart-breaking let down and swung the season. The elongated delay allowed Greene County to regroup and focus their attention where it was needed most, taking care of the ball and scoring points.
To that point, after the Rams had scored 25 first half points, they’d been held to just a single touchdown over the next 20 minutes. Three turnovers, a blown double digit lead and a blackout can derail even the greatest of teams.
Not fifth-ranked Greene County. The blackout gave the offense the spark it needed.
“We finally came together as a team,” Miller said. “It shows what we can do when adversity hits. When we actually come together and play with energy and fly around, we have fun playing the game that we love. It shows that we can do really good things.”
The Rams certainly didn’t do theirselves many favors Friday. Both of Nevada’s first half touchdowns came off turnovers and short fields while another Greene County mistake allowed the Cubs to stay within striking distance late in the first half.
The Rams were in the red zone and threatening to take a three score lead into halftime before a penalty pushed them out of field goal range. The drive prior saw a blown call award Nevada the ball on Greene County’s 31 yard line, which allowed the Cubs to score a touchdown.
The mere inches between error and success proved how fickle the game of football can be. Instead of launching their way up to a 25 point lead, the Rams only held an 11-point halftime advantage. The disappointing first half finish and Nevada’s ensuing comeback didn’t discourage the Rams. They kept pushing.
The Sept. 6 battle was filled with surprises, lucky bounces and extreme athletic feats. But, regardless of the array of body blows Greene County endured, they eventually came out on top.
“(A game like this shows) we have a lot of fight,” Duncan said. “We were just talking to our guys how we were a player to away from blowing this thing wide open in the first half.
They couldn’t really stop us and then all of a sudden we’re losing. So it shows us that we had some fight. I think it’s going to be really good for us going forward.”
Greene County will welcome Saydel (0-2) to town this Friday for a week 3 showdown, hoping to advance to 3-0.
Greene County is next in action Friday, Sept. 13 as they host Saydel (0-2) at 7 p.m. in Jefferson.