WEEK 6 PREVIEW: REVENGE IS BEST SERVED ON HOMECOMING
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Who: Kuemper (1-4, 0-1) at #4 Greene Co. (5-0, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 in Jefferson
Last meeting: Kuemper won, 16-8 in 2018
What to watch for: A head-to-head battle of two Division I recruits - (Greene County’s Tyler Miller, a ISU commit and Kuemper’s Blaise Gunnerson, a Nebraska verbal signee)
X Factor: The Knights’ defense was thrashed on the ground a week ago, can Colby Kafer, Miller and company take advantage?
By Brandon Hurley
It’s time for the drought to end. This one is as tantalizing as it gets.
The layers to the annual Greene County and Kuemper Catholic rivalry continue to grow with each passing year, and the 2019 district 9 tilt may be the most intriguing matchup yet.
Though Kuemper’s had Greene County’s number over the past decade, having won eight of the last nine meetings, including a 34-point shutout three years ago and a disheartening 16-8 triumph last fall, ending Greene County’s hopes of an undefeated run, the Rams are ready to pounce.
Greene County last picked up a win in the rivalry back in 2015, when they secured a dominant, 35-21 home victory. Ram offensive tackle Tyler Miller didn’t mince words addressing the lopsided series Monday afternoon. Revenge is the only mission.
“Yeah, I think (there is a bit of a revenge factor). We (the 2020 senior class) beat (Kuemper) when we were freshman and varsity did, too,” Miller said. “But this year, we can really make a statement and come out and beat them for the first time in four years.”
You could say the Rams have quite a bit of motivation coming in, and that’s even before examining the rare on-field matchup. There’s a little battle between a pair of future Division I athletes (Greene County’s Tyler Miller and Kuemper’s Blaise Gunnerson), but there’s also a date with destiny in play.
Fourth-ranked Greene County (5-0) has won 13 of their last 14 regular season games, including a string of 8 straight victories dating back to Sept. 28, 2018.
Who’d the Rams last lose to?
This week’s homecoming foe, Kuemper Catholic. The Knights in fact, secured the only automatic playoff berth among district 9 members after securing the 2018 district championship, which left Greene County anxiously awaiting their eventual at-large birth.
This matchup is so much more than a rivalry separated by 30 miles of highway.
Take the recent Greene County success a bit further and the Rams have now won five straight district matchups, out-scoring their opponents 168 to 48.
This is as delicious a matchup as there is just two weeks into the 2019 district slate. Only Greene County and eighth-ranked OA-BCIG (5-0, 1-0) boast overall winning records among fellow district 9 members.
Atlantic (2-3) is 1-0 in district play after holding off Kuemper a week ago (20-18) while both Shenandoah (1-4, 0-1) and Red Oak (0-5) are well below .500. Get past Kuemper this week, and theoretically, it’s smooth sailing for Greene County until their regular season finale with OA-BCIG.
The Knights’ 1-4 overall record is a tad deceiving, as they’ve done battle with several strong teams. KHS boasts losses to Class 1A No. 6 South Central Calhoun, previously ranked (3A) Glenwood (4-1) as well as Class 3A’s Denison-Schleswig (3-2). Those three schools boast a combined 12-3 record. The Rams will be ready when the Knights ride into town.
“It’s a huge game. There’s a little bit of history with Kuemper,” Duncan said. “The guys have kind of had this marked on their calendars since last year it was their only regular season loss. It’s definitely going to be a big game. We know we are going to get their best shot.”
The 2019 Kuemper Knights have struggled, at times, to put points on the board. They average just 12.8 points per game, the second lowest total in District 9, to go with 227 total yards per game. Kuemper has cracked the double-digit plateau just twice in five weeks, with a season-high 27 points in an opening night win over Class 1A’s Council Bluffs St. Albert.
Kuemper has tallied 616 rushing yards and seven touchdowns through five weeks, an average of 123 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Through the air, the Knights have thrown for 523 yards and just three touchdowns against six interceptions.
Quarterback Cole Collison presents a problem with his ability to tuck it and run (270 rush yards and six TDs) while running back Kyle Berg is a 6-3 athletic run producer (306 yards, 1 TD). He’s also caught five passes out of the backfield.
The Rams, since giving up 41 points to Nevada in week 2, have allowed an average of 4.7 points per game while keeping each of their three opponents under 10 points. As a whole, the Greene County defense is allowing just 11 points per game.
Kuemper will present its fair share of challenges for a red-hot Rams’ defense.
“We expect to see a spread offense, but they are run first. Their quarterback is over 200 pounds so he’s kind of a bulldozer type runner,” Duncan said. “They are explosive. They can spread it around little bit. We know we have to stop the run and dictate that. We haven’t given up defensive points in four of our five games.
We are trying to limit their options and put some pressure on them, get them out of their comfort zone.”
Offensively, the Rams are ranked third in all of 2A, averaging a prolific 44 points per game. Greene County is out-scoring their opponents by an average of 33 points per contest. They’ve yet to score less than 28 points in a given game this fall. The high-powered unit will be squared up against a defense that is not only anchored by Gunnerson but a bevy of other physical athletes. Six Knights have tallied at least 15 tackles while they’ve come away with seven total sacks, four interceptions and a single fumble recovery. The Knights are holding opponents to 27.4 points per game, with just a single foe held under 20 points so far.
Kuemper will trot out a 4-3 defense, with four defensive lineman and three linebackers. Coach Duncan expects to see a sizable pass rush led by Gunnerson.
“They’ll move some guys around. Their strength is the pass rush on the edge,” the coach said. “They’ve got some good athleticism at the linebackers.
We like some of our matchups. We think we can move the ball.”
Atlantic knocked off Kuemper a week ago, 20-18 thanks to a magnificent night rushing the ball. The Trojans, led by 2A’s second leading rusher, Tyler Moen (805), ran for nearly 250 yards. The senior carried the rock 25 times, tallying 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good for an average of nine yards per carry.
With Greene County’s Colby Kafer also second in the state averaging nine yards per carry, totaling 805 yards, the Rams would like to establish the run.
But Duncan knows they’ve got plenty of options.
“We have full confidence in our guys, especially with our balance,” the coach said. “We think we’ll be able to keep them on their toes.
Duncan continued, “We need to be the more physical team and we need to be the more disciplined team. We like our guys and how we match up with (Kuemper). It’s definitely not going to be easy, but if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties and we execute, I think we have a good chance on Friday.”
The opening kick for the Oct. 4 homecoming showdown is at 7 p.m. at Linduska Field in Jefferson.