THE EARLY LEAD: Offensive innovation, balance keeps undefeated Rams humming along
By Brandon Hurley
The talent is obvious.
Experience helps, too.
But what makes the fourth-ranked Greene County offense so dangerous is their remarkable balance.
These Rams (5-0, 1-0) won't ever lull you to sleep. The defense has to stay aware. Put too much emphasis on halting running back Colby Kafer's electric speed and record-setting Brent Riley will burn you with the deep ball to his stable of talented receivers. Oh, and there's the home run ability in the return game as well.
Offensively, the Rams are ranked third in all of 2A, averaging a prolific 44 points per game. Greene County is out-scoring their opponents by an average of 33 points per contest. They've yet to score less than 28 points in a given game this fall.
The Rams have compiled 1,849 yards (369.8 ypg), which places them 11th in the state. Greene County is also ranked 11th in passing with 974 total yards
while their 24 total offensive touchdowns are eight in 2A.
It's an incredibly even-keeled offense boasting numbers that could be even greater at this point.
Building huge halftime leads has been Greene County's detriment, which certainly isn't a bad thing. The Rams have held a four score advantage in three of their four wins this year, forcing the Jefferson squad to ease up in each of those contests.
The Rams have been remarkably efficient when their starters do get their hands on the ball.
They've thrown the ball 104 times and rushed 140 times. Sprinkle in 18 kick returns and the Rams have scored 221 points on 262 offensive touches. That's nearly a full point per touch, as the average comes in at 0.84 points per touch.
The balance is exactly what head coach Caden Duncan and offensive coordinator Cole Jaeschke hope to achieve each game. Duncan wants his guys to find a groove. He believes it bodes well for the talented athletes.
When the Rams are able to smoothly switch between the run and pass, it's when they are at their most dangerous. They keep the defense guessing.
"When we're in rhythm, it's something to see," Duncan said. "And that's kind of been our big focus the past couple weeks. When Brent Riley catches it and throws it in rhythm, he's really, really accurate."
What also skews Greene County's numbers is the insane year Carter Morton has put together. The junior has scored four touchdowns on 11 kick returns. Put that all together and Greene County scores a touchdown essentially once every seven touches.
This offensive genius is nothing new, either. The Rams have been scoring at a high rate for the past 14 games, dating back to 2018.
Greene County was ninth in total points (375 points) last fall in Class 2A, an average of 37.5 points per game. The Rams were seventh in total yards (4,049 yards), an average of 7.4 yards per play, adding up to 48 total touchdowns.
"Our tempo and the balance, teams can't come up and load the box on us because we have too good of a quarterback and too good of receivers," Duncan said. "But if they want to play back and spread out the defense, we will hit them with the running game. It's exciting to see."
Go beyond the stellar balance and you find a ground-breaking quarterback engineering it all.
Riley, as a second year full-time starter, is the glue to Greene County's scorching hot offense. The senior steers the operation, feeding the plays to his teammates, making they hit their spots. Riley holds the all-time Greene County passing record for yards (3,629) and touchdowns (40) and is off to another hot start.
Over his past three games, the gun-slinger The second-year starter has been incredible the last three games, completing 44 of his last 61 passes (72 percent) for 566 yards and 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The senior is currently ranked fifth in 2A with 14 touchdown passes. Fellow District 9 foe Cooper Dejean leads the state with 19 scores. Riley has tallied the ninth most passing yards in 2A with 949 yards. He's completing passes at a career-best 62 percent clip. Duncan believes Riley's success is largely due in part to his natural god-given ability, but he's grown immensely in leadership.
"I know inside a lot, he gets kind of anxious and antsy. But he doesn't show that on the outside," Duncan said. "He keeps the guys pretty calm. If they're ever getting flustered, he'll calm them down. He knows all the plays and he knows the different options that we have off the play. He's reminding guys where to be."
Riley's improved patience and field vision have been huge this fall as well. He's thrown just three interceptions in 98 pass attempts and has one heck of a receiver to throw to. Carter Morton was second in Class 2A last week 409 receiving yards and has hauled in five receiving touchdowns. He took a simple bubble screen 78 yards to the house in week 4 while he's also shown an ability to make impressive leaping grabs.
While Riley's accuracy is probably his strongest attribute, he's also displayed a knack to tuck the ball and run this fall.
"I think that's one thing we've seen more this year than last year already is that he's running the ball more," Duncan said. "He's pulling on all those options and he's just executing our offense really well. He's the leader on the offensive side."
With the Class 2A, District 9 slate now underway and the title race wide open, Greene County's balance becomes a huge strength. The Rams were 4-1 a year ago, with just a single loss to Kuemper. The goal is to come out on top with a championship this fall.