Football week 2: Back in Black
By BRANDON HURLEY
JEFFERSON - It was their turn.
The offense let loose last week, stepping into the spotlight and springing Greene County to its first 2-0 start since 2015 in a 38-10 whooping of Nevada Friday, Aug. 31 in Jefferson.
Paired with the offensive explosion, the defense held its own once again, as the Rams curtailed a potent Cub offense to just 72 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Greene County has already doubled its win total from a season ago and matched the combined victory total over the last two years, all in just two week’s time. A tremendous feat in itself and one that’s even more sweet when some of the athletes recount what they’ve endured, quarterback turned running back, Clint Dennhardt said.
“It’s great. All hard work. That’s all it comes down to, really,” he said. “Working harder than everyone in the offseason and it finally pays off.”
Dennhardt has been a member of each of the last two, one win seasons, but has stuck with the program to witness the dedication come to fruition.
Picking up a resounding win over a dangerous Nevada club has Greene County head coach Mitch Moore well beyond relieved, especially with how easy they made the dominance look while keeping the undefeated run – albeit small – in tact.
“This is a big time win for this program and all the credit goes to my coaches and these kids for the effort they put in the last nine months,” Moore said following the Rams’ win. “It showed in the second half because we dominated them physically. Because we were in so much better shape. (It was a) huge win. Now we’ve got to keep the snowball rolling.”
The Rams produced 384 yards of total offense and five touchdowns last week, including 231 yards passing from junior quarterback Brent Riley, who tossed three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Dennhardt ran for 84 yards and a score while backfield mate Colby Kafer tallied 145 total yards and two touchdowns, which was highlighted by a nifty 83-yard catch and run in the first quarter. Carter Morton picked up his second straight 100-yard receiving day thanks to another long touchdown, this time a 50-yard catch down the far sideline to put the final nail in the coffin. He finished with three catches for 100 yards, bumping his season total to 211 yards, which is fourth in 2A. Riley sits fourth in all of 2A with 487 yards passing and is also tied for fourth with five TD passes.
The quality craftsmanship from Riley is really what made the engine go last week, Moore said.
“Execution,” he said. “We’ve got really talented receivers that are hard to guard one-on-one and they tried to guard us one-on-one. We knew that going into the week. We figured we could exploit them there a little bit and we did.”
Greene County sprinted out to a 24-3 lead late in the second quarter as Riley and Kafer made for quite the dynamic duo. Kafer took a short pass across the middle 83-yards to the house, breaking a tackle off the catch, quickly side-stepping the next on-comer before turning on the jets and racing down the far sideline. Kafer punched in another score in the first half, after his 30-yard gain put the Rams on the four-yard. He’d score on the next play, giving the Rams a two-score lead.
The offensive rejuvenation was keyed in large part to a dominant offensive line, Dennhardt said.
“They beat them off the ball every play,” the senior said. “We had our way with them and it all started with the O-line. We made moves and ran hard.”
Junior linebacker Nick Breon recorded a team-high 6.5 tackles (two for loss) and forced a fumble late in the second quarter. The Ram defense picked up three turnovers on the night while only turning it over once on offense.
The Greene County back line was slightly less bullet-proof this time around, that’s not to say they still weren’t highly successful. The defense stood tall when they needed to most.
The Cubs dominated time of possession in the third quarter, driving deep into Greene County territory several times. A pair of fourth down stops and a forced fumble through the back of Nevada’s end zone kept the Cubs deadlocked at 10 as the GC offense hit a few snags.
Nevada quarterback Kody Krushwitz, who threw for 200 yards and five touchdowns in the Cubs’ week one loss, was held to just one score and 192 yards and an interception.
The Grene County defense has been tremendous two games into the season, giving up just 16 points in eight quarters while allowing an average of 59 rush yards per game. Nevada ran for just 72 yards on 25 carries, a 2.88 yards per carry average.
That ability to find an extra gear in clutch situations has proved pivotal the opening two weeks of the year, Moore said.
“We’ve got a defense that plays physical, plays fast and with great emotion,” the coach said.
The Rams shutout Nevada over the final 24 minutes as the offense continued to build on its lead in the fourth, scoring a pair of touchdowns to put the game away.
“What great resiliency by our defense,” Moore said referring to the momentum changing third quarter. “They just kept trucking along and they kept believing in the play calling. We were putting pressure on their guys. And again, our effort and how good of shape we’re in right now. I’m really pleased with it.”
It’ll be a battle of who budges first as Greene County’s stout run defense will go up against a Saydel team that loves to pound the ball on the ground. The Eagles (0-2) are led by dual-threat quarterback Cash Lee (292 total yards and three touchdowns), who leads the team in passing and rushing. Saydel lost 45-6 to Atlantic in week one while Knoxville escaped with a 19-13 victory last week. The Rams have not started 3-0 since 2007, when Jefferson-Scranton/Paton-Churdan ripped off an 8-2 record and lost to Hampton-Dumont in the playoffs.
The key to picking up their third straight win, something that hasn’t been done in quite some time regardless of what point in the season, boils down to Greene County staying even keeled while exerting a hunger for more.
“Focus and just don’t be satisfied with, even though we’ve haven’t been here before,” Dennhardt said. “We just have to act like we are 0-2 and it’s a new season.”
Using this year’s quick start for even more motivation, Moore said. Getting comfortable with that winning feeling, channeling it into future games. Moore let his guys enjoy the moment Friday night while urging them not to lose sight of the ultimate goal – a championship.
“We’ve got to continue to learn how to win and great teams that learn how to win understand that. It’s important to celebrate with your teammates and your parents and your grandparents,” Moore said. “But what’s more important is to come to work tomorrow, ready to have a workman-like mentality and take care of business like we should.”
Friday’s kick is set for 7:30 p.m. in Des Moines.