Week 1 Recap: RING THE COWBELL WITH PRIDE
By Brandon Hurley
Greene County’s complete package made an emphatic appearance in week 1. A perfect storm of sorts for Caden Duncan’s head coaching debut.
While Greene County’s defense was the clear-cut MVP, the Rams’ overall balance was perhaps the most telling characteristic during their opening night thrashing.
Greene County blanked Perry, 54-0 at home August 30, retaining the Cowbell for the second straight year while making a sweeping statement.
The Rams sure didn’t seem to have much rust leftover from a roller-coaster offseason which included a coaching change and a swath of departures. Their stalwart defense held Perry to just 35 total yards while forcing four turnovers, helping kickstart an offense that tallied five touchdowns and 347 total yards.
It was quite the impressive performance to help Greene County retain the Cowbell Trophy for another year, but Duncan wasn’t entirely pleased with the result. He was thrilled to get an easy week 1 W, but he felt there were a few chances to make the score look even more enticing.
“We played really well. My big takeaways is we are a very explosive team, but I know we’ve got a long ways to go to get where we want to be,” the coach said. “I think we could have played a lot better. We played well but we (have) a lot to clean up. And the guys realized that, so we’re going to go to work and really focus on the details and being a little more disciplined.”
The Rams have outscored Perry 120-23 in their last four meetings, three of those victories, including two of which were shutouts. Greene County certainly has held the upper hand recently, and last week’s game was no different.
The Greene County defense secured two fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions while they also scored a pair of touchdowns, a fumble returned 10 yards for a score by Joe Patterson in the first half while Nick Breon returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the second half. The senior also recorded a team-high 6.5 tackles including four tackles for loss, which tied him for the most week 1 tackles for loss in all of 2A.
The Ram defense completely bamboozled a run heavy Perry offense from the opening snap, forcing a pair of fumbles on the Bluejays’ first two possessions. The PHS offensive line could not handle the physically imposing Ram defenders as the visitors were held to minus 35 yards in the first half. Greene County came away with 10 total tackles for loss and eight solo tackles for loss, which ranked them second for solo tackles and third in total tackles for loss in all of 2A in week 1. Those statistics were a testament to the Rams’ ability to fly to the ball carrier. Many of their stops were created by a gang of Greene County tacklers, swarming the ball carrier and suffocating him with pure strength and speed. The defensive line wreaked havoc in the Perry backfield on almost every snap which even included a blocked field goal late in the first half.
“Our defensive line was outstanding. Our tackling was pretty good,” Duncan said. “We can always get better at tackling. We lost our leverage couple times. But our D line was dominant. We did a little bit of blitzing early on, and then (it) became pretty apparent that I didn’t need to blitz because the D line was just dominating.
Then we just kind of started playing back in the secondary and keeping things in front of us. I was really proud of the D line. And overall, we were just very aggressive.”
Offensively, The Rams averaged a stellar 9.4 yards per play, piling up 216 rushing yards and three touchdowns to go with 131 passing yards and a pair of scores through the air.
Colby Kafer was the offensive star amidst a bevy of other breakout athletes, compiling 179 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. Quarterback Brent Riley, in addition to his 131 passing yards and two touchdowns, also rushed for a 14-yard touchdown in the opening half, which came off a perfectly-timed bootleg and he waltzed into the end zone untouched.
Fellow senior Carter Morton burst out to a hot start as well, hauling in five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a 32 yard touchdown on a beautifully drawn up wheel route off play action. Morton added a third touchdown on a third quarter punt return, knifing his way 70 yards through the Perry defense, untouched.
Kafer’s 179 yards was the fifth best week 1 total in Class 2A, while his yards per carry average of 19.9 yards was the third best average among players with at least five opening night carries.
Morton’s two receiving touchdowns rank him in a tie for fourth in 2A while he was just one of five players in the state to return a punt for a touchdown in the opening week. With that, the senior receiver, defensive back and punt returner leads all of Class 2A with 101 punt return yards.
As a team, Greene County’s 54 points were the fourth most in Class 2A. Des Moines Christian scored a whopping 78 points in a decisive shutout victory over West Central Valley.
The balance was a nice start to the year, but Duncan was most impressed with the time and space the Ram offensive line provided Riley and Kafer.
“When we just wanted to line up and run the ball we usually did very good. And obviously, everyone saw our explosive playmakers we have on the edge,” Duncan said. “We had a couple mistakes here and there. A guy leaks through or we got a penalty or something. But I really think we showed our explosiveness.
We were kind of experimenting with some things here and there because in the first game, you don’t really know exactly what you’re going to get. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the offense.”
Greene County opened the week 1 scoring action with an 11 yard rushing touchdown from Kafer after the Rams recovered a Perry fumble on their own half of the field. Kafer’s score was set up by a nifty, 38 yard gallop which saw him slice his way across the entire field.
Kafer capped his night with two more electrifying runs in the third quarter which ended in another score, placing an exclamation point on his game with a 14-yard score.
Riley’s first touchdown pass came in the first quarter off a blocked field goal. Joe Patterson helped the Rams take a 27-0 lead into the halftime break, scooping up a Perry fumble and rumbling 10 yards into the end zone.
The Rams had little trouble with the Perry defense, as they put up 27 second half points to close out the triumphant night.
Duncan passes initial test in debut triumph
The jitters weren’t that unlike the excitement Caden Duncan felt during his high school days. Flash forward just under a decade ahead and he was leading a group of young men instead of taking the field with his peers. The first-time head coach secured a monumental victory in his head coaching debut August 30, a 54-0 drubbing of Perry.
He’s a perfect one-for-one, knocking off the first major milestone without much of a hiccup.
The Rams helped their new head coach ease into the process In his first chance to patrol the sidelines, dominating the contest from the opening kick. The Prairie Valley High School grad can now safely proclaim his spot in the upper echelon of the profession. Duncan had spent the previous three years as a Panorama High School assistant before replacing the departed Mitch Moore in the offseason.
Expectations were high as Duncan took to the Jefferson sidelines last week. The Rams were 8-2 a season prior, securing an 8-1 regular season record and an appearance in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. With a strong core returning from that turnaround campaign, the pressure was certainly on Duncan to come out with a rivalry victory. He certainly exceeded expectations, helping the Rams flex all of their potential in the opening week blowout.
“It’s crazy. I’ve been waiting a long time for (this),” Duncan said. “I’m not a super emotional person, usually. But it’s pretty awesome. I’m just really excited to be the head coach here at Greene County.
I’m super excited about the future. But you (have) to get win number one first and then get rolling. So it feels really good.”
Greene County hits the road Friday for their week 2 matchup against Nevada. The Cubs won their season-opener 25-16 over North Polk.
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.