Football: West Lyon stifles Rams offensive attack, forces four turnovers in round 2 triumph
By Brandon Hurley
Rhythm is often an anchor in high school football.
Fall out of sync and the entire game plan is jostled, leaving a confident program searching for answers.
Greene County couldn’t quite find that offensive footing in last month’s Class 2A playoff loss to West Lyon, with costly turnovers plaguing the Ram unit.
That much sought-after rhythm eluded the hometown squad.
GCHS coughed up the ball on four straight drives Oct. 28, witnessing a seven-all tie quickly evolve into a 20-point deficit. The West Lyon Wildcats took advantage of a fumble and three interceptions, scoring 36 unanswered points in a convincing, 43-7 second round victory in Jefferson, advancing to the state quarterfinals.
The back-breaking turnovers were suffocating, giving the Wildcats a short field on several possessions while a late second quarter interception provided West Lyon all the necessary momentum they’d need.
The Wildcats blitzed the Rams for 273 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, holding Greene County’s rushing attack to just 48 yards, more than 150 yards under their average.
The struggles continued to snowball as the Rams slipped into a spiral of mistakes, unusual from a squad used to playing a clean game.
Greene County twice turned the ball over inside their own 30 yard line, including a devastating interception with under a minute to go in the first half. The Rams trailed just 12-7 with a chance to gain some momentum before break, before West Lyon picked off a Gabe Ebersole pass, returning it to inside the 25-yard line. The Wildcats needed just two plays to make their opponents pay, securing a 19-7 halftime lead.
Greene County turned it over three times alone in the second quarter alone, as West Lyon capitalized by scoring 12 points, breaking free of the first quarter tie, cruising to the eventual victory.
“Give credit to West Lyon to playing tough defense and for coming up with those turnovers when we gave them the opportunities,” Greene County head coach Caden Duncan said. “Some of it was just mental errors on our part and some of it was us making uncharacteristically bad plays, and they capitalized.”
The opening quarter increasingly became an anomaly as the game wore on. It seemed as if Greene County had found their groove, answering West Lyon’s first touchdown with an impressive jaunt of their own, executing an 80-yard drive thanks to crisp passing and a methodical approach, tying the score at 7.
Duncan was impressed with Greene County’s resolve, especially after the Rams had opened the night with a disappointing three-and-out. The second drive of the game was smooth, quick and tone-setting and seemed to foreshadow a tense playoff contest.
“That drive was a great response to their scoring drive, and it really showed what we were capable of when we executed,” Duncan said. “We got into a nice rhythm and made some good plays.”
The game-tying score unfortunately wasn’t predictive of the eventual outcome, even though West Lyon would later cough up the ball on Greene County’s five yard line early in the second quarter, killing a long drive. The Rams gave it right back three plays later, losing a fumble of their own. It was a common theme throughout the night, opportunities squandered against a ball-hawking West Lyon defense.
The Rams entered the second round playoff matchup with less than 10 total turnovers in nine games. Ebersole had thrown only a single interception, maintaining an impressive touchdown-to-INT ration. Surprisingly, Greene County nearly doubled that total Oct. 28, losing the ball four times, including three interceptions.
West Lyon pounced on the struggling Greene County offense, out-scoring the Rams 24-0 in the second half, capitalizing on Ebersole’s third interception early in GCHS’ first second half drive. The Rams couldn’t quite muster enough mojo to stick with the Wildcats. Penalties also hurt, as a second-half Greene County touchdown was wiped off the board, later leading to a disappointing turnover on downs.
Ebersole led the Rams with 156 passing yards and a touchdown, completing 11 of 21 passes, though he was intercepted three times. Jack Hansen secured seven of those balls for 71 yards, while Richard Daugherty caught the lone touchdown, scoring off a 34-yard catch and run. Patrick Daugherty, Greene County’s leading tailback, was held to 31 yards and a lost fumble.
Despite the season-ending loss, Duncan was impressed with Greene County’s resolve, knowing a few fortunate breaks and better execution could have led to a completely different outcome.
“We showed we could go toe-to-toe with a team like that for quite a while,” the coach said. “It got away from us later in the game after the turnovers and some injuries took their toll, but I think we saw that we can hang with teams like that while also showing us what it takes to get to that next level, which is where we want to get.”
West Lyon improved to 8-2 overall, moving one step closer to the program’s sixth state title. The Wildcats will take on undefeated Central Lyon/George-Little Rock (10-0) in the Class 2A quarterfinals Friday night.
Though Greene County’s season came to a close last week, it wrapped a bow on yet another successful season. The Rams finished the year at 8-2, securing their second straight, District 8 title to go with at least one playoff win for the fourth consecutive season. The Rams entered the fall slate with a number of unknowns, only to continue carrying the torch of success.
“This was a great season for Ram football,” Duncan said. “We didn’t return a lot of starters from last year’s team but we accomplished our goal of repeating as district champions.
The amount of growth that this team had during the season was really remarkable. A lot of younger guys got loads of experience during this season, so that should definitely pay dividends in the future.”