FORTVILLE — Is Greenfield-Central for real? That seems to be the prevalent question among local football observers.
With a 2-0 start to 2014, the Cougars have already matched their win total from a year ago. With 15 rushing touchdowns (including a program-record nine last Friday), they’ve surpassed their entire rushing TD mark of 14 from last fall. And, with 110 points in the two wins, G-C is most of the way to their 2013 point total of 159, a figure they needed 11 games to reach.
Class 4A Mt. Vernon – the 4A Cougars’ foe Friday – is a step up in competition from 2A Indianapolis Shortridge and struggling 4A Indianapolis Northwest, G-C’s first two opponents. But MV head coach Doug Armstrong has a healthy respect for the Cougars.
“They seem to have a pretty solid team,” he said. “Their entire backfield is back from last year. (Andy) Kim and (Cameron) Nuckols both are very hard runners.
“They score a lot of points, so defensively we’re going to have to be really solid.”
Armstrong isn’t just paying lip service to G-C. His squad caught the beginning of what has actually been a four-game upward Cougars trend.
With Kim and Nuckols in the backfield, G-C topped Muncie Central in the sectional opener of 2013, then nearly upset the Marauders before falling 16-13 in the semifinal.
Now, three games later, Greenfield-Central squares off again with Mt. Vernon (1-1) in the Hoosier Heritage Conference opener.
“That sectional game was a matter of them getting their players back,” Armstrong noted. “(G-C coach) Roger (Dodson) dealt with a lot of injuries last year, and that’s the way it happens sometimes.
“He always does a good job. They were better at the end than they were at the beginning. It was a heck of a game. We just were able to tough it out.”
Besides returning to health, especially along the line, G-C was improved late last year in the turnover department. In a 55-0 Week 7 loss to Mt. Vernon, the Cougars lost four fumbles, threw an interception and the Marauders ran for 401 yards.
In the sectional rematch, G-C didn’t gift a single turnover and they kept Mt. Vernon to 183 yards on the ground.
Part III of this recent series – with both squads promising to keep the ball horizontal – could again hinge on taking care of the pigskin.
“Last year in our first game that was one of the biggest factors in the game,” Dodson recalled. “We turned the ball over about every which way you could.
“Certainly when you get into a close game, if this (week) happens to be that, then the turnovers a lot of times make the difference.”
In the Cougars’ 62-12 pasting of Northwest last week, they gained 403 yards on 52 carries with one fumble.
Mt. Vernon tallied 349 rushing yards on 49 attempts in a 42-9 win over Marion, with no turnovers.
Jeremiah Fields and Jimmy Campbell, the quarterbacks for Greenfield and Mt. Vernon, respectively, totaled seven pass attempts.
“They’re going to run the ball just like we’re going to run the ball,” Dodson said of this week’s scouting report.
Dodson’s counterpart didn’t differ on the predicted plan of attack. The Marauders are on their second starting quarterback of the young season after incumbent Pete Werner, who was to lead a new pass-inclined MV offense, went down early in Week 1 with a foot injury.
Campbell, Werner’s replacement, is dealing with a sore back.
“Jimmy got nicked up in the Marion game, so he has not practiced much,” Armstrong said, “So we’re still going to be kind of limited … what we did last week, we’ll kind of repeat that same thing.”
Armstrong said that Campbell, normally a starting linebacker, is likely to be ready to go at quarterback Friday, but he won’t be asked to play defense.
The coaches offered a caveat to what is expected to be a 100-plus carry affair on Friday.
The Cougars know Mt. Vernon likes to run, and vice-versa. So, with both defenses loaded up in the box, someone at some point is going to take a shot downfield.
“Jimmy’s a good, tough kid and he can run the ball a little bit,” Armstrong said of his QB. “We feel he can complete a pass when we need it. I mean, we have some good receivers. Last week, Dan Werner and Zach Spears both made some big time catches.”
Werner, a six-foot-3 Division I tight end prospect, and the 6-6 Spears combined for three receptions for 34 yards, enough to keep the chains moving at critical junctures.
Werner and Brayton Shannon also teamed to rush for 250 yards on 34 carries.
Against Northwest, Nuckols and Kim gained 206 ground yards on 25 touches.
Fields, like Campbell, was also efficient, going 3-for-3 through the air for 74 timely yards.
“Certainly, we’ve got to take advantage of whatever we need to do,” Dodson said of what is sure to be an intense MV defensive focus of the run. “If that means we’ll be throwing the ball a little bit more, then that’s what we’ll do.”