NEW CASTLE — With an immediate fumble after receiving the kickoff, a short-lived first possession and a clumsy 10-yard punt, the Greenfield Central Cougars were not apparently off to a good start in their away game against the New Castle Trojans on Friday.
After quickly regaining composure, however, Greenfield proved to show a resilient defense and a spirited rushing game. The Cougars battled until the very end, ultimately suffering a 24-14 defeat, ending their regular season with a 3-6 record.
Greenfield’s defense battled the Trojans to fourth-and-goal at the start of the first quarter, but the Trojans managed to complete a 28-yard field goal to score first.
Greenfield opened their second possession with better success. Receiving a squib kick at the 30-yard line, the Cougars began employing a series of rush attacks between halfback Braden Brown and quarterback Andrew Leslie.
Greenfield had found their rhythm. Brown smashed right up the middle for a 37-yard rush, breaking two tackles and scoring the first touchdown of the game.
Prepared to then counter a strategic passing game, a quick series of rushes caught the Cougars defense off guard. A surprising 32-yard run by New Castle running back Dakota Durick brought the Trojans to the Cougars’ 15-yard line.
Another shot up the middle landed the Trojans in the end zone, giving New Castle a 10-7 lead to end of the first quarter.
Later, in the third quarter, a 50-yard punt was immediately answered with an impressive 51-yard punt return by Greenfield’s Orlando Mohica, putting the Cougars at first-and-10 on their opponents’ 33.
This next possession was set up for a strong drive, but New Castle’s Trojans were well-prepared for Greenfield’s series of rushing attacks, stopping them barely within field goal range.
A failed field goal on fourth down gave the Trojans possession. Getting wise to their opponent’s strategy, the Cougars brought some rushing defense of their own to the table, but were ultimately unable to stop a 13-yard touchdown run by New Castle’s Luke Bumbalough.
Greenfield’s offense took the field and pushed hard toward the end zone. Leslie went for a fake handoff and sprinted to the left side, catching the first down but landing just shy of the end zone.
An impromptu quarterback draw led to a touchdown, allowing the Cougars to close the gap before the end of the half, making the score 17-14.
Greenfield started off the second half with a surprise onside kick. The failed play gave New Castle possession at the 50-yard line. Unable to hold the line, Greenfield struggled against Trojan’s forward momentum, which swiftly carried them to another touchdown pass completed by Bumbalough and a 24-14 lead.
Desperately needing a comeback, the Cougars were able to take advantage of their rushing game to push up the field, but not enough to score. The Trojans defense was able to prevent the Cougars from running the ball, preventing any meaningful gains in the fourth quarter.
In the final 4 minutes of the game, New Castle took possession on the 25 yard line. They completed a quick 9-yard bullet pass, but were stopped just short of a first down. In the final minutes, a Greenfield-Central defensive lineman jumped off sides, giving the Trojans the edge they needed to start pushing the clock.
New Castle made their way to another first down with just 1:30 remaining in the game. Lining up in victory formation, the Trojans took a knee to run down the remaining time on the clock.
“Our defensive staff had a great plan,” Greenfield Central head coach Adam Sherman said. “We ran the ball effectively; we just had a couple missed cues, and that’s been plaguing us all season. We get down to the one, then get a penalty, miss a field goal, and we lose a shot. That’s sort of been the story of our year.
“Our kids are as tough as they come, man. This senior class is awesome, and I’m sad for them that [this year] hasn’t gone necessarily the way that it should. But I’m really proud to be the coach of this team.”
Having wrapped up this final fight of the regular season, the Cougars are slated to play Friday at Zionsville, facing off against the Eagles in their first sectional game.