Week 8 Preview: Defensively stout Red Oak awaits in Greene Co.’s latest road test
By BRANDON HURLEY
Win out and they are in.
It’s still as simple as that, though winning is never as easy as it sounds, especially in a 48-minute football game, late in the season.
With two weeks remaining, the ninth-ranked Greene County Rams (6-1, 2-1) hit the road to take on Red Oak (4-3, 2-1), a team who was undefeated in district play as recently as last week, when 10th-ranked Kuemper knocked the Tigers off.
Greene County’s RPI is sitting comfortably at No. 12 in 2A (0.5886), firmly in the playoff chase and in line for one of seven at-large bids. But any stumble between now and week 9 and the Rams may be left on the outside looking in, as their RPI would certainly take a tumble.
Tenth-ranked Kuemper holds sole possession of first place in Class, 2A, District 9 with a 3-0 record. With a win this week, Greene County would give themselves some breathing room in second place, with OA-BCIG (6-1, 2-1) taking on Kuemper this week before visiting Jefferson in the season finale the following Friday.
In a way, the two-hour trip southwest Friday is the biggest game to date, in a slew of make-shift playoff games. It’s certainly something that isn’t lost on Greene County head coach Mitch Moore. He’s aimed at keeping his guys focused on the task at hand, despite the lengthy bus ride.
“We are going to arrive in Red Oak earlier than we usually do for a road trip. This will get us some time to stretch and focus once we get there,” Moore said. “We understand how big this game is for keeping our goals attainable. (A) district game in mid-October, with our playoff hopes on the line – our kids will be ready to go.”
Red Oak has been stout defensively as of late, allowing just 19 points per game, including a spirited performance in last week’s loss to Kuemper, in which the Tigers held KHS to 272 yards, including just 117 on the ground. Flashback a week prior and Red Oak held a then undefeated OA-BCIG squad to just 19 points, including minus two rushing yards. Junior Justin McCunn leads the district in tackles with 63, the 10th-best total in 2A.
The Tigers like to run the ball , as they lead the district with 1,804 yards and 17 touchdowns, an average of 258 rush yards per game, the sixth-best mark in the state.
Three Red Oak ball-carriers have produced more than 550 yards, led by Codie Bentley. The senior has rushed for 622 yards and seven touchdowns while his teammate Carter Maynes has produced 609 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
With Red Oak’s strength (rush offense) matching up Greene County’s stingy run defense, it could mean a low-scoring game is in store. The Rams have recorded the second most tackles for loss in the state (66), only behind eighth-ranked Spirit Lake.
“I expect Red Oak to be as physical and as tough as any team we’ve played all year,” Moore said. “They have tough, downhill backs, who like contact. They play true, smash-mouth football.
To win this game, we have to play with a high level of confidence in all three phases of the game, play with great physicality, and use our team speed to our advantage.”
After holding Kuemper to just 109 total yards in week six, Atlantic thrashed the previously stout Greene County defense for 21 points (the most of any team this year) and more than 300 total yards.
The Rams hope to get back to their defensive ways in a contest that has them itching to do battle, Moore said. Greene County pushing for a playoff berth for the first time since 2014. A win Friday will be another step toward making that goal a reality.
“No one on this roster has played in a game with playoff implications in October,” Moore said. “Our program has earned the right to play in a big game this late in the season. We embrace the challenge.”
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Red Oak.