Week 5 football: BUSINESS AS USUAL
By BRANDON HURLEY
The Rams are really starting to make this look easy.
Blowouts of historic proportions will do that.
In Greene County’s latest triumph, it was the big man on the edge garnering state-wide attention who kick-started the latest rout.
Defensive end Tyler Miller, who picked up his sixth Division I offer Monday from the University of Minnesota, snatched a tipped pass out of the air and rumbled 29 yards for a first quarter score, igniting fifth-ranked Greene County’s fifth straight victory, a 62-0 slaughtering of Shenandoah in a Class 2A, District 9 opener.
Class 2A’s stingiest defense had little trouble with the visiting Mustangs Sept. 21, smashing a pair of long-standing school records in the process.
Greene County (5-0, 1-0) held Shenandoah to a record-low 17 total yards, turning back the Mustang rush attack for a record-setting minus 25 yards in the process.
The undefeated Rams are 5-0 for the first time since 2007, as they used a stout defense and a well-balanced offense to secure their second shutout in three games. It was all on display last week during a decisive beat down, as Greene County piled up 465 yards and two turnovers.
“The consistency in which we played with on defense (was key). We just continue to stop the run and play with great energy and great tempo,” Greene County head coach Mitch Moore said. “Offensively, we were really consistent. Our playmakers made plays when they needed to again. Once the momentum got rolling we really stomped on them and took the game away early.”
Shenandoah stood little chance last week, as they mustered just one first down and did little to slow down the Ram offense.
Greene County scored eight touchdowns in the convincing win, pushing their season total to 30, which ranks them second in 2A behind Clear Lake (31). The Rams tallied 226 yards passing and 250 rushing, their third straight game of more than 425 yards. Greene County has outscored their last three opponents, 176-7.
Quarterback Brent Riley, now tied for the state lead in touchdown passes (15), threw for 211 yards and four touchdowns on 11-of-14 passing, adding a one-yard touchdown on the ground. In his last two games, the junior has tallied eight total touchdowns and 453 passing yards, completing 32-of-52 passes (61.5 percent). Riley has thrown for 1,080 yards in five games, having thrown just five interceptions. He’s really come into his own as the Rams’ signal-caller in his first year under center.
“I think we just came together. Our (offensive) line has been blocking really (well. Our receivers are running crisp routes,” Riley said. “I think we’re going to keep getting better each week.”
Greene County built a 42-0 halftime lead, using their steady offensive balance to impose their will on Shenandoah.
Carter Morton hauled in two catches for 87 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown reception, bumping his season totals to 20 receptions for 475 yards (4th in 2A) and six touchdown receptions (T-1st in 2A). He’s caught a touchdown in five straight games.
Senior tailback Clint Dennhardt scored three total touchdowns, hauling in two touchdown receptions while producing 82 yards and a score on the ground. Dennhardt has now amassed 10 total touchdowns and leads the team in rushing with 502 rush yards, boasting a 9.5 yards per carry average.
The offense is humming along as a well-oiled machine, averaging 59 points per game over the last three weeks. Moore attributes it to Riley’s growth within the offense.
“It was game five for Brent (Riley) and he’s feeling a lot more comfortable. He’s a lot more efficient,” the coach said. “We’re not asking him to do too much because we’ve got two backs that can really take the load off.”
The Greene County defensive line caused tremendous havoc all night long, getting deep pressure in the backfield on almost every snap. After Shenandoah secured their only first down on the first drive of the game, the Rams locked in, forcing back-to-back turnovers, eventually piling up 13 tackles for loss.
The defensive pressure is due to extra time in the film room and knowing opposing offense’s tendencies, Moore said.
“We really study our opponents and know what moves beat each guy we play against. They’re doing a great job at play recognition,” Moore said. “I like to call our defense formation-ally and we do a lot of things not necessarily by plays, but by what teams are doing formation-wise. Our guys have been doing a great job in recognizing formations.”
The Rams have not allowed more than 40 yards rushing in three straight weeks, as they’ve amassed 52 total tackles for loss in five games, the second best mark in 2A, only behind second-ranked Spirit Lake (62). The records keep falling as Greene County is holding opponents to 4.6 points and just 112.5 yards of offense per game. It’s all due to the continued growth of the 11-man unit, Moore said.
“We have more knowledge of the game of football. That’s helped us with our ball get off,” the coach said. “We’re playing with confidence right now. Each guy knows that the guy next to him is doing their job. It makes it easy for us to play fast when we’re doing our job.”
Greene County’s five wins have matched their most victories in a season since 2013. The Rams last won six games in 2011, when they went 6-4. It’s currently the longest win streak in more than a decade dating back to 2007, when the Jefferson-Scranton/Paton-Churdan Rams won seven straight games to start the year, finishing with an 8-2 overall record.
Entering this fall, Greene County had won a total of six games in the previous three years, from 2015-17. They’ll attempt to match that in just six weeks as they do battle with nearby rival, Kuemper Catholic this coming Friday.
The Rams are the only remaining undefeated team in district 9, exploding off to a 1-0 start. They join Red Oak and Kuemper Catholic as the other district winners in week six.
Greene County hits the road Friday to take on the Kuemper Knights (2-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak in last week’s 45-14 shellacking of Atlantic.
Kuemper is averaging 38.5 points per game over the two games. They are led by quarterback Cole Collison who threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Atlantic Trojans.
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at the newly renovated Carroll Athletic Stadium.