WIN OR GO HOME
By BRANDON HURLEY
This is what October football was meant for, fireworks, title implications and a playoff atmosphere, all within the cozy confines of a home stadium.
Saving the best game for last is quite a nice thing for the football Gods to treat us to.
For those who thought the previous eight weeks of Greene County action were exhilarating, wait until you get a taste of the week nine battle against 10th-ranked OA-BCIG (7-1, 3-1).
The season finale will pit one of the state’s most potent offenses against a nasty defense while a potential 2A, District 9 title and automatic playoff berth lingers in the air.
On paper, this one should wet anyone’s appetite, without even trying.
Greene County (7-1, 3-1) could play the role of spoiler (OA-BCIG holds the head-to-head district tiebreaker over Kuemper) while also bolstering their playoff resume.
Since losing to Red Oak Sept. 21, halting their season-opening five-game winning streak, OA-BCIG has run through their last three opponents. The Falcons have averaged 40 points per game in wins over Atlantic, Shenandoah and Kuemper, with an average margin of victory of 27 points per game.
During that winning streak, quarterback Kaden Ladwig has thrown for 1,091 yards (363 ypg) and 10 touchdowns.
The senior has routinely torched defenses this fall, to the tune of 2,377 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, a magnificent 25-to-6 touchdown to interception ratio and a nearly 300 yards per game average (297ypg), completing 60 percent of his passes. He leads Class 2A in both yards and TDs by a wide margin and is fourth in the state across all classes, just 107 yards behind Fort Dodge’s Drake Miller, who is setting all kinds of school records at the Class 4A level.
Ladwig is as dangerous as they come, easily the most talented quarterback the Greene County defense will have faced all year. And we haven’t even touched on his running ability yet. Ladwig has scored 12 times on the ground, bumping his total TD mark to 37, the highest mark in the state.
“They have a quarterback who has great command of the offense,” Greene County head coach Mitch Moore said. “He’s got great vision and great snap awareness. He doesn’t get pressured much because he gets the ball out (of his hand) so quick.”
Ladwig tallied 426 total yards and seven touchdowns in OA-BCIG’s huge upset win of previously 10th-ranked Kuemper in week eight, a 49-17 dismantling, asserting their selves as the cream of the crop.
The senior threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes and running for 74 more yards and three touchdowns.
Just an insane state line in OA-BCIG’s biggest game up to that point.
Causing confusion at the line of scrimmage may be the first key to success, Moore said. Get Ladwig out of his comfort level and force him to check down to his second and third options. With a defensive line that’s tallied 81 total tackles for loss and a red-hot defensive end in Bryce Hoyle (23 tackles the last two weeks), Greene County putting pressure on the OA-BCIG quarterback is a must.
“We’ve got to create some pre-snap alignments that throw them off a little bit,” Moore said. “We have to disguise some of our coverages better than we have and we have to be physical with their receivers. We can’t just let them run. If they get in space, they can all run. If we miss a tackle in this game, they are gone.”
Ladwig has one heck of a go-to receiver in Cooper Dejean. The sophomore hauled in 10 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns last week, bumping his season totals to 50 catches for 695 yards and 10 touchdowns, all three marks of which rank him in the top 10 in 1A, with his 10 scores tied for first in the state. Not to be left out, senior Quintin Cranston has tallied 725 receiving yards, the fourth-best mark in the state on 27 catches, eight of which have gone for touchdowns (T-3rd in 2A). Combined, Dejean and Cranston have tallied 1,420 yards, 77 receptions and 18 touchdowns.
There’s no dancing around this one, OA-BCIG has an incredibly dangerous offense.
“I think it’s really evident on tape that this is the best football team we’ve played,” Moore said. “They’ve got skill players on the edge and they’ve got a sophomore (Dejean) who is as good as a football player we’ve seen.
The staff does an excellent job of getting the ball to their playmakers. They are smart. Get the ball to guys that can make plays.”
OA-BCIG is averaging 360 yards of offense per game, scoring nearly five touchdowns per game. They’ve got the most potent offense in the district outside of Greene County (3,168 yards, 40 TDs), which should provide one heck of a test for a defense that’s been pushed against the wall the last two weeks.
“It’s going to be a huge task for our defense,” Moore said. “We haven’t played our best football the past few weeks, but we’ve still played really aggressive, really physical and really hard.
We need to exert our will on defense. If we think we are the best defense in this district, we need to come out and prove it on Friday.”
For the Ram offense (38 ppg, 396 ypg), attacking the teeth of OA-BCIG’s defense could prove pivotal. In each of their last four games, the Falcons’ opponents have rushed for at least 125 yards, including Red Oak’s high water mark of 389 yards in their 24-19 win back on Sept. 21. That bodes well for the Rams, as the potent duo of Clint Dennhardt and Colby Kafer have combined for 1,37 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Dennhardt leads the team with 698 yards and 12 touchdowns, including five touchdowns during the Rams’ two-game winning streak. Scoring quick, and often is vital, Moore said.
“We are going to have to match what they do offensively,” the coach said. “They score points so we are going to have to score to win this football game.”
A victory Friday would put the stamp on an 8-1 regular season, completely reversing a 1-8 campaign a year ago. A feat that seemed unfathomable following Greene County’s 49-14 beatdown at the hands of Ballard in the 2017 finale.
“In all honesty, it’d be one of the biggest turnarounds in Iowa,” Moore said. “But I don’t know if it would do anything more for our confidence or our belief in what we are doing. There’d be some validation, and I think that’s the biggest thing for our seniors who have worked so hard at becoming better people and better football players, bringing pride to the school district. It would be awesome.”
Kick-off for the big, top 10 matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Linduska Field in Jefferson.