Week 9 Recap: Wake Up Call
By BRANDON HURLEY
The outcome certainly wasn’t the jolt Greene County desired, but in a way, it was needed.
As cliche as it sounds, the Rams disappointing week nine loss may have been a blessing in disguise.
Football can be a complicated and frustrating game.
The numbers don’t always tell the story, as hard as it may be to digest. The beautiful intricacies shape the most legendary performances while simultaneously killing the collective hopes of an entire fan base.
Though the Greene County Rams did in fact qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year, this one feels a little bittersweet.
And can you blame them? While they are still happy to be here, it could’ve been even more satisfying.
The much-anticipated week nine season finale between fifth-ranked OA-BCIG and fourth-rated Greene County lived up to the hype throughout the first half. But, a pivotal penalty late in the second quarter paved the way for what would eventually become a comfortable OA-BCIG win.
It was seemingly a quiet, but significantly huge moment, one of several key mishaps, allowing the undefeated and fifth-ranked OA-BCIG Falcons to rip off 28 unanswered points en route to the title, a convincing 35-13 win.
Holding a 13-7 and staring down a OA-BCIG 4th and 2 inside the Rams’ 20, it looked as if Greene County had silenced the Falcons at a key juncture.
Then came the dreaded yellow flag.
A defensive holding penalty gave the Falcons new life and an first down, which they took advantage of and scored a go-ahead touchdown a few plays later. It was the small window OA-BCIG required.
That’s all it took to wake up the sleeping giant, as the Falcons sprinted to victory. The loss was frustrating in several ways. It eliminated Greene County’s hopes of a district title and an undefeated season while the defeat also snapped an 11-game regular season winning streak dating back to September of 2018. If that weren’t enough, the loss gave OA-BCIG the outright District 9 championship complete with a perfect 9-0 regular season record.
It hurt, to say the least. But so much potential remains. Despite the loss, the Rams, because of their sparkling 8-1 regular season record, earned an at-large bid into the 2A playoffs, their second straight playoff appearance. The loss was a tough pill to swallow, but it caused quite the stir within the locker room, Greene County quarterback Brent Riley said.
“I think it’s better to lose then than this upcoming week,” he said. “We got it over with and we are blessed to play again. We need to learn that we can’t just walk in and beat everybody all the time with our talent. We have to work hard and stay together. If something does happen, we have to come back and keep playing hard.”
The season finale was most definitely a tale of two halves.
Yes, the statistics are in fact mind-boggling, yet confusing. Theoretically, if Greene County force the state’s leading passer, Cooper DeJean into four interceptions (he entered the contest having thrown three interceptions all year), one would imagine the Rams should come out on top.
But the junior signal-caller proved why he’s staked his claim among Iowa’s most premier athletes. It was those instances of super-human ability that allowed his Falcons to capture their ninth-straight win and a spotless record over a previously undefeated Rams squad.
Resiliency, at times, defined Greene County’s historical jaunt prior to its momentary halt, though it was the sheer grit of week nine’s standout athlete that shined brightest.
DeJean tallied 468 total yards and five touchdowns last Friday, including a ridiculous second half in which he ran for 152 yards and two scores. Greene County held the junior to just four rushing yards and three interceptions in the first half before he re-introduced himself to the Rams defense, scrambling away from pressure with increased regularity before he iced the game with a brilliant, 98-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
DeJean’s ability to make something spectacular out of a broken play is what pained Greene County most.
“It’s really frustrating because we felt like in the first half, we played very well on defense. Besides a couple of plays, we really shut them down,” Greene County head coach Caden Duncan. “We knew it was only a matter of time, you can’t contain a guy and an offense like that forever. They’re going to get some points. They busted some big plays and a couple of them were perfect plays at the perfect time.”
Miscues plagued Greene County in the season finale as well, turning a potential moment of historic proportions into a bevy of what-ifs.
Greene County (8-1, 4-1) did in fact outplay OA-BCIG in the opening two frames despite the 14-13 deficit, but a momentum-shifting third period was the final difference. The Falcons forced two pivotal turnovers, including a Greene County fumble on the goal line with the Rams hoping to chip into a 15-point deficit, as well as a turnover on downs, turning a one-point halftime advantage into a commanding lead, which eventually ballooned to 28-13 after three quarters. The Falcons ripped off four consecutive touchdowns after trailing 13-7.
“We just couldn’t finish offensively. We’d get down in the red zone a handful of times and couldn’t punch it in. Or we’d fumble it or turn it over,” Duncan said. “Things like that really kill you. And they also won the field position battle. That was huge because our punting game was not very good. Across the board, their special teams were better than ours. When you’re starting drives on the 40 yard line, that’s a lot better than the 20, especially with an offense as good as theirs.”
Greene County’s Zach Goff hauled in a career high two interceptions while Jaxson Warnke and Bradyn Smith each hauled in a pick as well. Riley was 22-of-53 (41 percent) for 239 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. The senior gun-slinger entered the week 9 finale with just three interceptions and 27 touchdowns. He hadn’t thrown an interception in more than 140 consecutive pass attempts, a streak that dated back to week two.
But the OA-BCIG defense had Riley’s number.
Running back Colby Kafer carried the rock 30 times for a 125 yards and a touchdown while Carter Morton led the Rams in receiving with five receptions and 84 yards while he scored a five-yard rushing touchdown out of the wildcat formation midway through the second quarter for their final lead of the game, 13-7.
Greene County’s 13 points were a season-low and the fewest points since the Rams scored eight in a September 2018 loss to Kuemper Catholic.
Riley ranks fifth in Class 2A with 2,025 yards, his second straight season cracking the 2,000-yard and 20 touchdown barrier (Riley threw for 2,242 yards and 22 TDs in 2018). He’s now thrown for 4,705 career yards, by far the highest total in Greene County history. The senior also remains second in 2A with 27 passing touchdowns, which puts him at 53 career touchdown passes.
Kafer’s 125 rushing yards pushed his season total to 1,256 yards, which ranks him fourth in 2A to go with 12 rushing touchdowns. Morton’s 84 yards moved him to 874 total yards (fourth in 2A) and 40 receptions while he’s hauled in 11 touchdowns (also fourth in 2A). He’s now over the 1,500 career yard mark (1,574) to go with 25 total career touchdowns.
The week 9 silver lining is how much Greene County still has to play for. Greene County was granted the eighth seed thanks to their placement in the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s RPI Index. They’ll take on ninth-seeded Des Moines Christian (8-1) in Friday’s first round, Nov. 1 in Urbandale.
Even coach Duncan admits the OA-BCIG loss has evolved into a motivator.
“We have to keep our composure a little better and we have to finish off drives,” the coach said. “We are talking about hitting the reset button. We’re still one of the top teams in the state. We got beat by a really good team who played a really good game. We are hitting the reset button to get our swagger back.”
Friday’s first round playoff kick is set for 7 p.m.
The winner advances to play either No. 3 Algona or No. 16 Central Lyon/George-Little Rock.