Week 9 football preview: A different kind of test

Rams host red-hot Ballard in season finale
“Al Christian, he’s a special individual and a huge mentor of mine and has been since I was in high school. He runs as a good of a ship as anyone in the state. That guy is as good at attention to detail as any coach that I’ve been around. He’s done a lot for me in my life. Even in the middle of this season I called him up for advice. He picked up on the first ring and talked to me for half an hour. I’m excited. It’ll be one of those games I’ll look back 20-30 years on and still have fond memories.” - Greene County head coach Mitch Moore

Matchup breakdown

Who: Ballard (4-4) vs. Greene County (1-7)

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 in Jefferson

Last Meeting: Ballard won, 50-0 in 2016

Keys to the game: The Bombers love to run the ball, and they do it with many different backs. Keep them quiet, come out hot and GC has a chance. But fall behind early and it could be a long night.

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This one will be just a little different. 

The story lines for Greene County’s season finale Friday evening are plentiful as the Rams take the field one more time. 

For starters, Ballard embarrassed the Rams in the 2016 week 9 contest, a 50-0 blowout in Huxley, so a shot at revenge is certainly on the minds of the student athletes. 

Add to that the personal connection Greene County head coach Mitch Moore has to the Bombers – he’s a high school graduate from the school in Huxley, while he also played under and learned from coach Al Christian.  If that wasn’t enough fuel for the fire, Ballard is perhaps one of the hottest teams in the district, having won three straight games. 

Put that all together, stir it all up and pop it in the oven and Friday’s battle on the gridiron has the potential for an all-time classic. It’s been slow roasting for awhile now and it’s time for everyone to dig in. 

The impact coach Christian has had on the Greene County rookie head coach’s career and the Huxley and Slater communities is beyond compare, Moore said. It puts a little extra significance on the matchup Friday - the mentor vs. the apprentice. 

“Al Christian, he’s a special individual and a huge mentor of mine and has been since I was in high school,” Moore said. “He runs as a good of a ship as anyone in the state. That guy is as good at attention to detail as any coach that I’ve been around.

Moore continued, “He’s done a lot for me in my life. Even in the middle of this season I called him up for advice. He picked up on the first ring and talked to me for half an hour. I’m excited. It’ll be one of those games I’ll look back 20-30 years on and still have fond memories.”

Ballard (4-4 overall, 4-2 in district 2) has ripped off three straight wins in convincing fashion, including a commanding upset victory over previously undefeated and top 10-ranked Boone, 28-7 back on Oct. 6. The Bombers have won each game by an average margin of 35 points during the streak. 

The Bombers have averaged 48 points over the three game span, including a season-high 71 against Iowa Falls on Sept. 29. 

The Ballard defense has allowed just 12.6 points per game during their red-hot run and most recently defeated Gilbert, 48-17 in week eight. 

“(Ballard is) as hot as any team in the district right now. Coach Christian has got his team going in the right direction,” Moore said. “In my eyes, on paper, going into the season, they were one of the top teams in the district. 

He develops his kids, both mentally and physically. They will be a great football team.”

The Bombers are second in district 2 with 2,414 rush yards as a team and 32 touchdowns, which are the fourth and third best totals in the entire state. 

Running back Skyler Noftsger is third in the district with 782 rush yards to go with eight rushing touchdowns. Reece Huen was the Bombers’ leading rusher in their week 8 win, putting up two touchdowns and 80 yards. Four guys have rushed for more than 400 yards, with all four having scored at least five touchdowns. 

“Offensively, they shift, they motion, they are really good at keeping you off kilter,” Moore said. “They don’t have a lot of tendencies.” 

The Bombers are without their 2016 leading rusher, Hunter Wright, who is down with an injury. The then junior rushed for a game-high 277 yards and mind-blowing five TDs in last year’s win. 

Quarterback Isaac Schafbuch has thrown for 894 yards and eight TDs while running for 526 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, posing yet another dual threat under center. 

The season finale may not impact the playoffs or the district standings at the top, but coach Moore views this as an opportunity to send the seniors out in style. 

“We are both playing for our seniors, they have put a lot into the season,” the coach said. “While neither one of us are going to the playoffs, that doesn’t really matter to the magnitude of this football game. The seniors deserve to go out on top.”

As the final game of the fall approaches, Moore hopes his guys seize the opportunity to finish the year on a high note, and kick-start what the coach has dubbed the most important offseason in his coaching career. 

“It would be huge (to get a win). It would really turn the tide, the next step that we need to get to a championship level,” the coach said. “It would be a tremendous boost to our offseason and it would solidify the guys that are on the fence. If we win this game, we are beating a darn good football team.”

Kick-off for the week nine battle with Ballard is for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 at Linduska Field in Jefferson.

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