CATCHING IOWA'S EYE: Smith, Morton earn third-team, all state distinction
By Brandon Hurley
Greene County's vaunted defense played an instrumental role in the Rams' mid-season turn around, a wild recovery aided by a season-defining six-game win streak.
At the center of that stalwart success, which secured the program's third straight winning season, were two of Greene County's most versatile and ball-hawking athletes.
The state of Iowa took notice of the Rams' suffocating defense this week, honoring linebacker Bradyn Smith and defensive back Jackson Morton with Class 2A third team, all-state distinctions courtesy of the Iowa Print Sports Writer's Association.
The duo's initial appearance as mere underclassmen, marks the third consecutive year a Ram has graced the prestigious all-state list.
Smith and Morton were preceded by Carter Morton (first team), Colby Kafer (second) , Tyler Miller (second), Brent Riley (third) and Cael Fisher (third) last fall and by Miller yet again in 2018. The back-to-back-to-back all state run is the only such streak in Greene County High School history.
Thanks in part to the many talents of Jackson Morton and Smith, Greene County's defense forced a staggering 20 turnovers this past fall. Their 10 total fumble recoveries were tied for the fifth-most in 2A while their 10 interceptions were tied for 18th. The Rams also placed top 12 in total tackles for loss, securing 66.5, which ranked the team 11th in 2A. The defense held opponents to an average of just 16.1 points per game, which placed the Rams as the 12th stingiest in the state.
Bradyn Smith was 13th in Class 2A with 64.5 tackles, aided by 12 tackles for loss, which was tied for the 27th-best total in the state.
The junior's two fumble recoveries tied for the eight-best mark in 2A.
Certainly, statistics don't tell the entire story of Smith's value. He's been a mainstay on defense for nearly three years, already crossing the 100 tackle plateau as a junior, tallying 115 total tackles and 25 tackles for loss. He finds a way to the ball carrier on nearly every play, barking out orders and pulling the entire unit together. Smith's first year as a two-way player paid off magnificently, as his punishing blocks on the offensive line led the way for Greene County's potent offense, which compiled 3,009 yards (300.9 yards per game) and 38 touchdowns. Greene County's 1,735 rushing yards were the 16th-most in Class 2A.
Junior Jackson Morton was Greene County's wildcard, navigating the gridiron in a variety of different ways. He was a lock-down defensive back, and also dazzled the opposition, splitting time as a wide receiver and running back. The young athlete could do it all. Morton secured 44.5 tackles from his secondary position, the second-best mark on the team, aided by a team-best four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. The two-way stud also hauled in two interceptions, the second-most by a Ram.
Offensively, Morton scored seven rushing touchdowns and hauled in two receiving scores for a total of nine touchdowns. He also chipped in more than 500 yards of total offense, rushing for 279 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and tallying 18 receptions for 293 yards, an average of 16.3 yards per reception.
Greene County as a whole won at least seven games for the third straight year behind the versatility of Smith and Morton. The Rams recovered from an early, two-game skid and a 1-2 start to finish the regular season 5-2 thanks to a six-game winning streak. Greene County thusly won back-to-back playoff games, aided by the first home playoff victory in GCHS history, shutting out Red Oak and Clarinda by a combined score of 73-0.
GCHS finished the year with a 7-3 record, placing second in Class 2A, District 9 play with a 3-1 mark, eventually losing to PCM in the round of 16.