Week 6 Recap: Greene County holds off Clarinda in thrilling overtime victory
By BRANDON HURLEY
Greene County has mastered the art of excitement.
The Rams’ latest victory certainly stands on its own amongst a string of thrillers, highlighted by a gritty, grind-it-out battle turned overtime stunner.
Sustained success requires a certain amount of skill and luck. Greene County has combined the two quite wonderfully the last three weeks, transforming a rebuilding year into a encouraging streak, aimed at making noise in the playoffs.
A tremendous, fourth and goal stop propelled the Rams to their third straight win last week, a thrilling, 22-15 nail-biter over Clarinda Oct. 2 in Jefferson.
The week six triumph had it all, stout defense, back-and-forth momentum-turning plays, and an exciting, yet brief overtime period.
Greene County is soaring high as they enter their season finale against Shenandoah, boasting a 4-2 record with a firm grasp on second place in Class 2A, District 9. Last Friday’s outcome secured a winning record and a all-but-guaranteed top-half playoff seeding.
All things considered, the Rams captured a monumental win.
Defensive lineman Sawyer Schiltz was a key warrior in the Rams’ stifling front in overtime. He valiantly helped turn back Clarinda at the goal line, sending a wave of Greene County teammates onto the field in celebration.
“’We have to win this game, that’s all I was thinking,’” Schiltz said. “We need a big stop here. I just tried my hardest and got there.
It’s awesome. It’s what we work hard for everyday in practice and it feels great. The hard work is finally paying off.”
Greene County preserved its latest win by scoring in just two plays in overtime, boasted by a remarkably stout defense. The Rams allowed just one offensive touchdown all night, securing victory despite Clarinda possessing two overtime snaps inside the five-yard line. In a sense, the Ram coaching staff and its suffocating defense guessed right. But it still took a certain amount of talent and execution to turn back the Cardinals at the most crucial of moments.
With Greene County clinging to a 22-15 lead in the second possession of overtime, Clarinda bore down on a fourth and goal from the two. A touchdown and a successful PAT would send the game into a second extra period. A stop would secure Greene County its fourth victory of the year. Head coach Caden Duncan pulled his guys together during one final timeout. He figured Clarinda would go back to its bread-and-butter, a smash-mouth, quarterback run. The coach guessed right, and Greene County executed, stuffing quarterback Wyatt Schmitt inches in front of the goal line. A few tense moments ensued as the referees attempted to clear the pile for the right call. Players from both sides waited anxiously in anticipation, and once the refs ruled in favor the home town team, pandemonium pierced the quiet of the cool, dark skies.
Duncan chose to stack the defensive line, pulling his linebackers in and selling out on the QB draw. It was well-planned and well-executed, propelling Greene County to another intoxicating win.
“That’s where our strength has been (in the middle),” Duncan said. “So we wanted to be really tough up in the middle. They came out, that’s what they ran, and we stepped up and made a big play.”
The Rams (4-2, 2-1 in district play) are on a roll as of late, recovering from a 1-2 hole to two games above .500, primed for a culture-defining playoff run. Greene County was in danger of falling into a demoralizing 1-3 rut trailing late against Class A’s Nodaway Valley back on Sept. 18 (19-14 in the fourth quarter), but since that moment, they’ve outscored their opponents 84-29, piling up back-to-back-to-back wins along the way. The massive heel turn, punctuated by last week’s gritty, program-defining overtime triumph, has rejuvenated the Rams. Duncan could sense the magnitude as he basked in the glow of a hard-fought victory last week.
“It shows me that a lot of the stuff that we’re doing culturally is going in the right direction as a team,” he said. “I think culturally, we’re moving in the right direction. This is a big win overall for the program moving forward. (I’m) really proud of the guys heart and their response was really good.”
Last week’s game trudged out to a slow start, with Greene County struggling to finish drives (Failing to convert three straight fourth down attempts on the plus side of the field), though they held serve on defense. The two squads entered halftime dead-locked at 0, which gave way for a thrilling second half. The third quarter saw both teams force an array of turnovers, each leading to touchdowns. The Rams took a 15-7 lead in the fourth, only to watch it evaporate moments later thanks to Clarinda’s return touchdown on the ensuing kick-off.
Greene County’s run game was the star yet again for the second straight week. The Rams rushed for a massive 352 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and three scores, thanks to heavy use of a jumbo set, a formation which places two running backs side-by-side directly behind the quarterback, with one other back even further behind those two for a three-back look. The misdirection and deception worked wonders as Greene County carved its way through the Clarinda defense. The Rams tallied 391 total yards in their win, holding the Cardinals to 255 total yards, just 66 through the air.
The Rams have really honed in on their ground game the last two weeks, transitioning from more of a spread offense type unit into a ground-and-pound unit, tallying 596 yards and nine touchdowns over that span. Coach Duncan on the heels of a mid-season, two-game losing streak, reassessed his talent at hand. The Rams don’t have the deep threat like they did last fall with Carter Morton, so a restructure was necessary. With a stable of speed-orientated athletes in his backfield, it was time to focus on churning out yards on the ground, Duncan said.
“This team this year seems a little bit different than last year. Our identity and our recipe for winning needs to start on the ground, whereas in the past, it was kind of 50/50 or maybe even more so with the pass setting up the run,” Duncan said. “This year, it’s the other way, we have to run the ball be successful. Things have kind of opened up for us. It’s just been an attitude and a mindset from the team that way. We want to be a physical team.
The three-pronged attack of quarterback Bryce Stalder, Nate Black and Jackson Morton has wrecked havoc on opposing defenses in the last month. Black rushed for a team-high 152 yards on 25 carries in week six for an average of 6.1 yards per carry, while Morton tallied 83 yards on 16 carries, an average of 5.2 yards per touch.
Stalder was even more effective with his legs, though he only completed three-of-17 passes Friday. The junior athlete redeemed himself with an electric ground game, rushing 117 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and all three of Greene County’s touchdowns, including a go-ahead, momentum-inducing rushing touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and the winning score in overtime. That particular fourth quarter drive was a thing of beauty, and most certainly provided Greene County with momentum it sorely lacked. The Rams opened the drive on Clarinda’s 34-yard line and Stalder quickly went to work. He ripped off a dazzling, 34-yard run up the opposite sideline, which was later followed by another double-digit gain, eventually setting up his short, go-ahead touchdown run.
The Rams improved to 2-1 in Class 2A, District 9 play Oct. 2. And though they are out of the running for a district title (Atlantic clinched last week, improving to 4-0), they can still lock down runner-up honors with a win over Shenandoah in the regular season finale Friday.
Black leads District 9 with 421 rush yards while Morton is tied for the lead with six rushing touchdowns. Stalder is tied for the league-lead with 11 total touchdowns (6 passing, five rushing), while he has produced a district-best 971 total yards (700 passing, 271 rushing). Morton has rushed for 224 yards on just 39 carries, a 5.7 yards per touch average. Defensively, the Rams forced three Clarinda turnovers. Morton tallied six total tackles (2.5 tackles for loss), while Bradyn Smith recorded 5 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. As a team, Greene County recorded eight tackles for loss. The Daughtery twins were a nightmare on defense, led by Patrick’s two interceptions and Richard’s fumble recovery. Smith is second in the district with 43 total tackles (Clarinda’s Cole Ridnour is first with 51.5) while Morton is tied for fourth with 38.5 tackles.
The Rams close out the regular season on the road Friday. They’ll take on the 3-3 Shenandoah Mustangs. The first week of the all-inclusive postseason will begin next Friday, Oct. 16. For more on Friday’s matchup and possible playoff scenarios, check out the week seven preview.