Week 1 Football: NEVER TOO MUCH COWBELL
By BRANDON HURLEY
PERRY - Football fever, meet #Cowbell.
Sounds of victory and jubilation hung in the air Friday night, melding with the uncomfortable humidity to form one heck of a post game celebration, one the Blue Oyster Cult and their percussion playing brethren would be proud of.
As the infamous Cowbell switched dozens of hands connecting smiles that could stretch the entire field, it was a gutsy conversion on third and forever that secured rivalry glory last week.
The Greene County football team outlasted Perry, 14-6 in the annual Cowbell game, a contest marred by penalties, miscues and stout defensive effort.
Revenge was on the minds of a veteran squad hoping to repay the Bluejays for a momentum busting loss last fall.
After prevailing three straight years from 2014-16, the Rams relinquished their rights to the infamous trophy in an overtime defeat one year ago.
Th 2018 edition of one of Iowa’s longest-running rivalries, sure wasn’t a pretty one - or quick, for that matter - but it showcased the resiliency of a team with sky-high expectations.
Lance Hughes’ catch and run on a screen pass from their own 15-yard line sealed Perry’s fate. With momentum quickly shifting after Greene County had held the Bluejays scoreless for 41 minutes, the Rams needed a conversion to keep a drive alive.
With five minutes left and only up eight, Greene County head coach Mitch Moore dug into his playbook and allowed his athletes to decide the outcome. There was no doubt what he’d call despite the daunting yardage ahead.
“I told the coaches, we have to run a screen here,” Moore said. “Get them in a three-by-one, run a screen and let’s see if we can get some yards back.
One of our special playmakers, Lance Hughes, made a hell of a play, ran down the sidelines and got 27 yards. Play of the game, it won the game for us.”
The first down spurred a time-consuming drive that would eventual peter out at the Perry 25-yard line, but with only 58 seconds remaining. It was a game-defining drive, putting the eventual outcome in the hands of the Rams’ most obvious strength - the defense.
The Rams held Perry to a staggering 91 yards, as the Bluejays struggled to even attain a first down in the opening half. Perry ran for a measly 46 yards on 35 attempts and only threw for 45 yards. Greene County gobbled up the Perry ball carriers all night long and kept them off the scoreboard for the first 41 minutes of gameplay.
That stout defensive front was a huge key in attaining victory, second-year head coach Mitch Moore said.
“We stopped the run. They could not run the ball on us,” he said. “They only hit one big play when we did a safety blitz, we were trying to keep momentum on our side.
Boy, our defense is pretty tough against the run. We have 11 guys that really fly around the field and play good football.”
Greene County clung to a somewhat commanding 14-0 lead at the break, in a contest that felt much more lopsided than the actual score.
Junior quarterback Brent Riley, making his second career start, thrived in the first half, throwing for a pair of touchdowns, including a 77-yard completion to Carter Morton, who weaved his way through the Perry defense early in the second period, punctuating the two-score lead. Riley finished the game with 258 yards passing but threw three picks in the second half, including an interception with under seven minutes to go, setting up Perry’s first and only score.
Greene County was shutout in the second half, an offense marred by several drive-killing penalties. At least two touchdowns were wiped off the board due to infractions – one each in the first and second halves – while other promising drives stalled in Perry territory.
“We’ve got to get better. We are just inefficient,” Moore said. “We had penalties, but we faced adversity, we fought through it and won the game.”
Coach Moore sees the potential in his quarterback, as he showed an awareness to move around in the pocket, but some of his mistakes came when he tried to force the issue.
“He’s got to be a little more on. He’s been on for the last nine months, at seven-on-seven and in practice but the lights were a little bright tonight,” Moore said. “He didn’t play his best game, but the receivers have to run more crisp routes and we have to establish the run a little more to help all of that. I never felt we got in a rhythm. I thought we called a good game, but we never got in a rhythm and hat’s hard when you’re on offense.
Despite the lackluster offense, the penalties, the late turnovers and a three-hour game, Moore was pleased with the final outcome.
“All things aside, I’m really happy to be one and o. Half the team’s in the state aren’t,” Moore said. “So a rivalry game to win it like that, we’re certainly excited.”
The Rams host non-district foe Nevada Friday night in their home opener. The Cubs lost their week one contest in a shootout, as North Polk prevailed, 49-35. The two teams were dead-locked at 35 late in the fourth quarter when the Comets scored two touchdowns in the final 37 seconds, including a pick-six a mere 12 seconds after their go-ahead score. Both teams lit up the scoreboard through the air, scoring a combined 55 points over the final two quarters.
Eliminating mistakes will be a key, Hoyle said. That, and outworking their opponent.
“We’ve got to (stay) in shape and we’ve got to limit the cramps,” lineman Bryce Hoyle said. “(If we) limit the penalties, it’s a different ballgame.”
Friday’s kick is set for 7:30 p.m. at Linduska Field in Jefferson.