No Reed Slone, no problem for Greenwood in its 2020 season opener.
In the first game trying to replace the team’s 2018 and 2019 leading rusher, the Gators were able to establish a ground attack early and shut out Warren Central at Joe Hood Field 42-0 on Friday.
“We want to hang our hats on running the ball and then take advantage of things that they give us,” Greenwood coach William Howard said. “I thought protection-wise offensively, we did a very good job protecting John (Morrison) when we did throw the ball.
“There’s some things we’ve got to work out, but your playbook is very limited whenever you’ve got a week to prepare. We didn’t want to do too many things, because when you do that you get confused kids, and at times we were still confused with the limited playbook we have right now.”
While without Sloan, Greenwood (1-0) knew it had a weapon returning in David Odom, who accumulated over 700 yards rushing in last year’s 5-6 season. He showed out like he was expected to, rushing for over 150 yards and scoring on a 20-yard run in the victory.
Greenwood also got contributions from senior Sebastian Conwell and juniors Marquese Trussell and Jaylen Brock, who added 129 yards rushing.
“When they had their opportunities, they did well when the ball was in their hands,” Howard said. “We’ve got to work on some things that we didn’t do right when the ball’s not in their hands because the natural ability takes over when that happens, and we’ve got to make sure we’re playing assignment football on the perimeter when we’re trying to block people ... but they did some really good things for us offensively.”
After forcing a three-and-out on Warren Central’s (0-1) opening possession, Greenwood used an eight-play drive – all of which came on the ground – capped off by a 1-yard run from Conwell to take a 7-0 lead. Conwell added a 2-yard scoring run to start a 26-point second quarter.
Odom’s scoring run with just over nine minutes remaining in the frame was the highlight of the Gators’ ground game. The senior back was hit, spun out of a tackle, dodged another and used his hand to maintain his balance, before rumbling past a couple more Warren Central defenders to give Greenwood a 22-0 lead.
“I was just thinking once the first hit, I spun out of that, I was just like, ‘I’ve got to get to the end zone. I can’t let nobody stop me,’ “ Odom said.
Meanwhile, the Dragons’ offense was unable to get going. Warren Central struggled to get snaps off with Jonathan Gornik, Greenwood’s 6-foot-1, 285-pound noseguard, looming across the line of scrimmage. Warren Central’s two quarterbacks – senior Jace Carver and sophomore Deanglo Patterson – couldn’t get comfortable in the first half and had negative yardage at the break. A bad snap led to an intentional grounding call from the end zone in the first quarter, resulting in a safety. Samuel McNabb had one of his two interceptions on the night in the first half to highlight the Gators’ defensive performance.
“Anytime you’ve got two quarterbacks that haven’t played in that position, and getting them comfortable with the snap – they just got off-kilter, and everything is moving in the game-time speed that they had never seen,” Warren Central coach Cary Fowler said. “... I also credit their noseguard. He was an unbelievable player and I think when you get a guy on top of you that is that dominant of a football player – there’s no mystery, that kid can play.”
After forcing Greenwood to turn the ball over on downs, a Warren Central fumble set up a 4-yard run from Reece Stafford to make it 29-0, and the Gators’ defense then forced the Dragons to turn the ball over on downs in their own territory, setting up a one-play strike – a 30-yard touchdown pass from John Morrison to Trussell – to make it 35-0 heading into halftime.
Morrison was just 1-for-6 passing for 21 yards and an interception to that point, but the Gators started to shake the rust from an abbreviated camp and the senior QB closed the game by completing five of his final nine attempts for 77 yards.
Greenwood added a 5-yard scoring run from Trussell in the fourth to make it 42-0, while Warren Central saw flashes of improvements from a team that hasn’t seen much time playing together yet.
“I thought our defense did some good things,” Fowler said. “We had a dropped interception, we (Malikhi Jefferson) intercepted and we had some injuries at linebacker that hurt us. I thought TySeam Day for us – No. 8 – played unbelievable and I said he was going to play unbelievable all week because he prepared that way.
“If we can just get settled down and start to play – we looked like we didn’t have a scrimmage game and they didn’t. They executed defensively, they executed offensively, they got the ball in David Odom’s hand and he made plays and the quarterback executed the operation.”
The Gators are scheduled to host Logan County next week, while Warren Central looks to snap its now-46-game losing streak when it travels to Allen County-Scottsville.
GHS 9 26 0 7 – 42
WCHS 0 0 0 0 – 0
GHS – Sebastian Conwell 1 run (Drew Smothers kick), 7:23
GHS – Warren Central safety
GHS – Conwell 1 run (Smothers kick), 11:57
GHS – David Odom 20 run (Kick no good), 9:09
GHS – Reece Stafford 4 run (Smothers kick), 2:05
GHS – Marquese Trussell 30 pass from John Morrison (Kick no good), 1:04
GHS – Trussell 5 run (Smothers kick), 7:02