Week 4 recap: STONEWALLED
By Brandon Hurley
The quick-strike offense naturally gets the fitting accolades.
But it’s Greene County’s performance without the ball that has really allowed the fifth-ranked Rams to thrive, sky-rocketing them to four straight wins.
Since surrendering 41 points in a week two win over Nevada, the Greene County defense has allowed just seven points in the past eight quarters, including a shutout streak of five straight periods. The Rams (4-0) have produced two shutouts in four games, and held three of their opponents to single digits.
Gilbert was Greene County’s latest victim in week four as the Rams rode yet another dominant performance to a 28-0 victory Friday, Sept. 20 in Jefferson. The victory secured Greene County’s perfect non-district run for the second straight year.
Last week’s stout showing is a testament to the resiliency of the veteran unit, Greene County head coach Caden Duncan said.
“We’ve stayed healthy and we’ve been really, really aggressive,” Duncan said. “Even when we’re not blitzing we’re still flying around. making plays. Our tackling is improved since Nevada and we’re more disciplined. I would say it’s all of those phases. They’re bringing it together and taking more pride.”
The varsity defense has not allowed a single point in three weeks. The Rams led 48-0 at the half against Saydel before the Eagles scored against the second unit while Gilbert managed just 158 total yards a week ago. They’ve been on a ridiculous tear, allowing just 12 points per game. The Rams strive to keep opponents off the scoreboard. The defense has only given up double digit points on one occasion this year, and only Nevada has scored more than seven points. The Cubs are also the only squad to crack the 200 yard plateau. It’s all a testament to the veteran leadership.
“I think they are really taking pride in that,” Duncan said. “Will Hansen is one of our defensive leaders, but we have a bunch of good guys up front. Gage Michaelsen, Tyler Miller, Joe Patterson, Cole Betts, they are all doing a really good job. Nick Breon is flying all over the field making plays and Carter Morton is the leader in the back.
All of those guys are seniors and they give us a lot of leadership.”
Before the defense could get settled in Friday, record-setting Carter Morton set an early tone. The senior exploded down the sideline with an 88-yard touchdown on the opening kick-off. Morton was left with nothing but green grass after a brilliant fake hand-off, part of a two touchdown, 286 yard night.
The deception was a little something Duncan had planned all week long, which allowed the Rams to jump to a quick 7-0 lead.
“It was huge,” the coach said. “Nate Black did a really good job of running his fake. We thought if we could jump on them it’s like literally like starting a game ahead by a touchdown when you score that quick.
It put them behind the eight ball right away and probably made them get out of their comfort zone a little.”
Morton also put the Rams up 14-0, taking a bubble screen 78 yards to the end zone. He finished the night with 180 receiving yards on eight catches, two touchdowns, an interception, and five punts.
Morton produced 286 total yards and two touchdowns on 11 total touches, a spectacular average of 26 yards per touch.
He is second in 2A with 409 receiving yards and is tied for fifth with five receiving touchdowns.
Gilbert’s offense threatened on their opening drive, but the Greene County defense stood strong, forcing a missed field goal. The Tigers never came close to scoring the rest of the way.
Quarterback Riley strung together a dazzling performance for the second straight week, going 15-of-24 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Riley has completed 23 of his last 34 pass attempts for six touchdowns and 341 yards, furthering his stranglehold as the most efficient quarterback in school history.
Greene County did struggle with penalties last week, as a holding call took away a long Colby Kafer touchdown while several other holds negated big gains.
Duncan said it boils down to releasing blocks earlier.
“We were hanging on a split second too long,” Duncan said. “Instead of just staying on and pushing the guy out of the way and keeping him going that direction. We were latching on just a bit too long. That’s what a lot of our penalties boiled down to.
Duncan continued, “We are going to focus on how we need to finish plays and stay disciplined. It’s okay if we accidentally missed a block or maybe (the defender) slips off at the last second. We can deal with that more than a 10 yard penalty that moves us back.”
Placekicker Cael Fisher has converted on 19 of his 23 extra point attempts (82.6 percent) , which is the fourth-best total in all of 2A. Fisher has now connected on 57 extra points in his career, missing just 10 attempts.
Running back Colby Kafer secured his third 100 yard rushing performance this fall, tallying 100 yards and a touchdown. The senior is second in 2A with 711 rushing yards while he is tied for fourth with eight rushing touchdowns.
Kafer is averaging 177.5 yards per game at a 10.9 yards per carry clip, which is fifth among backs with at least 20 carries.
Morton now has four returns for a touchdown (three punts and one kick). He’s averaging 33.2 yards per punt return, tallying 299 return yards, both the top marks in 2A. He’s second in Iowa, regardless of class in return yards and first in yards per return among athletes with at least five returns.
The fifth-ranked Rams return to action Friday, Sept. 27 as they open District 9 play at Shenandoah. The Mustangs (1-3) recently snapped a 12-game losing streak with a win over Riverside.