Parker Scott and his teammates on Greenwood’s defense spent a long night on their home field Friday.
That turned out just fine for the Gators, who proved up to the task of stopping a Union County squad looking for an upset and instead settled for a tough 14-7 road loss.
Scott played a key role for Greenwood’s defense, coming up with a pair of first-half interceptions – one in the end zone, the other in the red zone – to deny the Braves two prime scoring chances.
“We have gone over it time after time all week and all season, and just happy that it paid off and my defense had my back,” said Scott, a senior defensive back.
In what was basically a scratch game – Greenwood’s open date, combined with a late cancellation of Union County’s game against rival Webster County – prompted the Braves to come calling and set up the game last weekend.
That shortened prep time made it feel something like an old-time playoff game for Greenwood coach William Howard.
“The way the playoffs used to be, when you had to go play somebody you hadn’t played before,” Howard said. “The playoff system has changed – now you’ve got to play in-district games.
“It’s probably been 15 or 20 years since I’ve played Union County, so there’s been a lot of water under the bridge between then and now. I really didn’t know much about them, had to watch a lot of film. That’s kind of the situation we’re in. We were lucky enough that we could start preparing for them Sunday.”
Greenwood (4-0) looked well-schooled early against the Braves, producing a touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession. Gators quarterback John Morrisn connected on three straight passes covering 46 yards during a 59-yard drive, then capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run to put his team up 7-0 with 8:01 left in the first quarter.
The score wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Greenwood punter Drew Smothers, who turned a bad snap on the punt into a first-down run to the Union County 47.
Union County (0-3) turned the field position in its favor midway through the first quarter, forcing the Gators to punt from their own end zone. That gave the Braves the ball at the Greenwood 23-yard line, but six plays later on a third-and-goal from the Gators’ 9, Scott came up with his first interception of the night when he picked off quarterback Cannon Sheffer’s throw to the end zone.
The Gators managed just a three-and-out on their next possession, and the left-handed Sheffer (12-of-30 passing for 145 yards) again moved his team from his own 31 down to the Greenwood 10 before the 14-play drive stalled on Scott’s second interception of the half.
“We have worked for this moment,” Scott said. “Conditioning, every day, and I think it really paid off. Coach Howard really put us in a good position to win this game.”
The Braves forced another quick offensive possession for the Gators, and finally broke through after inheriting another short field. Facing fourth-and-10 with just seconds left in the half, Sheffer found Kanye Pollard in traffic for a 25-yard touchdown pass to knot the score at halftime.
The score stayed there until the fourth quarter, when the Gators came alive once more for a three-play scoring drive. Morrison found Carson Willgruber on a 10-yard pass, then connected with David Odom for a 33-yard strike that had 15 yards added on for a personal-foul penalty on the Braves.
On the next play, Morrison (9-of-17 passing for 123 yards) threaded a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ira Matheos for the game’s final points.
“Ira’s a great threat,” Morrison said. “I know I’ve said this a lot – I have a lot of great threats. But Ira’s new this year, he’s come in ready to go. I’ll trust him anytime one-on-one with another corner, no matter what.”
Greenwood’s defense did the rest, forcing Union to punt on its next two possessions before the Gators ran out most of the game clock to effectively seal the victory.
“They’re a well-rounded team and we made some big plays defensively, got them off the field,” Howard said. “It seemed like when we got the ball back, we were on the short end a little bit. We’ve just got to do a better job of running the ball and getting it out of there.”
Greenwood is slated to host district rival Christian County – another game rescheduled due to COVID-19 concerns – on Oct. 9.
UCHS 0 7 0 0 – 7
GHS 7 0 0 7 – 14
GHS – John Morrison 1 run (Drew Smothers kick), 8:01
UCHS – Kanye Pollard 20 pass from Cannon Sheffer (Chris Sabino kick), 0:00
GHS – Ira Matheos 14 pass from Morrison (Smothers kick), 7:49