Week 6 Football Preview: Undefeated Rams seek respect among the elite, battle Kuemper in latest test
By BRANDON HURLEY
The ramifications of the latest episode in the Greene County and Kuemper Catholic rivalry should have a lasting impact, one that could signify a program’s arrival or one that reassures continued dominance.
The annual showdown has been relatively tight as of late, with the 2018 edition posing as the most enticing to date.
Both the fifth-ranked Greene County Rams (5-0, 1-0) and Kuemper Knights (2-3, 1-0) have realistic shots at a Class 2A, district 9 title, each battling neck-and-neck for supremacy. If Greene County hopes to remain in the hunt of an automatic playoff berth and perhaps an undefeated season, they must first get past one of 2A’s most storied programs.
The Knights have been giant slayers before, and continue to pose as a repeated thorn in Greene County’s side. Despite a sub-.500 record, KHS can call on the experience of the 2013 state championship, district titles and playoff wins. The Knights have been consistent playoff-qualifiers for more than a decade, and trot out a plethora of talent.
In the last four meetings between the two, Kuemper is 3-1, with Greene County snagging a 35-21 victory back in 2015.
The time to make a resounding statement is now, Greene County head coach Mitch Moore said.
“It’s the biggest game around here in a decade, no question,” the coach said. “They are the champs until they’re not in this district. They are the team that’s won the state championship in the last five years. They have a winning culture. They’re a winning program. Their guys believe in themselves and they believe in what they do, as they should.”
The Knights have dominated the fierce battle over the last decade, piling up eight wins in 10 meetings. The Knights snagged shutouts in 2016, 2013 and 2014. It really hasn’t been much of a rivalry, as the Knights have rung up more than 30 points on the Ram defense in five of those eight wins, including an average of 33.5 points in the eight victories. The worst defeat came in 2012, when Kuemper Catholic throttled Greene County, 51-0. Even during Greene County’s most recent high-water mark win total, an 8-2 season in 2007, Kuemper handed the Rams their only regular season loss, a 29-7 demoralizing defeat. The defeat snapped a season-opening seven game win streak and a regular regular season win-streak which had spanned 16 games. It also ended a 10-game home winning-streak.
Greene County has slowly been working its way back to respectability in the last four meetings, the only outlier was Kuemper’s 34-0 shutout in 2016. Other than that, the Rams have played right alongside Kuemper, losing by a total of nine points in two defeats.
Interestingly enough, the Rams’ last district title was in 2006, so don’t be surprised if this contest means a little something extra. There are a few lingering feelings of disrespect, if you can call it that. The Rams hope to prove to Kuemper and the rest of 2A they are on the Knights’ level, and it starts with Friday’s kick-off.
“It would be big for our team. Just knowing that we’re continuing towards our goal of a district title,” senior defensive lineman Bryce Hoyle said. “That’s what we want. That’s our main focus and we know that we can do it. We have the ability, it’s time to put it all together.”
Kuemper is fresh off snapping a three-game winning streak, a 45-14 dismantling of Atlantic, while Greene County has won five straight, riding the momentum of a 62-0 shutout over Shenandoah.
The Knights’ three losses came at the hands of a few elite teams, including a loss to fourth-ranked South Central Calhoun (1A) as well as a pair of 3A opponents, Glenwood and Denison-Schleswig, who are a combined 6-4.
The record may be a bit deceiving, but Moore isn’t letting his guys fall into that trap. One of the Knights’ two wins came against last year’s Class 1A state runner-up, St. Albert (27-12) while the offense has caught fire as of late, averaging 38.5 points per game over the last two weeks.
“We believe that we’ve worked as hard as anybody in the state in the last year and we’ve shown it in our first five games,” the coach said. “We need to continue the show this week as we embark on this game Friday night. There’s a different edge to our program. We understand what’s at stake and we understand who we’re playing. We’ve got a lot of respect for this program.
This game has been circled on our calendar for a long time.”
KHS quarterback Cole Collison had a breakout game in the Knights’ blowout win over Atlantic, as the junior threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He’s passed for 10 touchdowns and 804 yards in five games, both marks are fourth in the district.
Senior tailback Nate Wendl has rushed for 458 yards and two touchdowns thanks to an eight yards per carry average. Wide receiver Justin Schaefer is fourth in the district with 232 yards and three touchdowns. Linebacker Kyle Snyder is sixth in 2A with 52 tackles, while Blake Baumhover is tied for fifth with three interceptions.
Friday’s kick is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the newly renovated Carroll Athletic Stadium and Hoyle knows exactly what will lead to a victory.
“(We have to) fly around on defense like we always do,” Hoyle said. “Keep them at minimum yards. That means a low score, no points. Coming out of the half in the third quarter, we have to pick it up offensively. Come out with a rhythm like we start out the game with.”