GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central head coach Roger Dodson knows if things had broken a little differently this offseason, he could have been absent from the Cougar’s season-opening contest rather than walking along the Cougars’ sidelines.
Fortunately for the coach, who resigned and was re-hired all in the span of about a month over the summer, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Dodson helped lead his Cougars to a decisive 48-18 win against Class 1A Indianapolis Shortridge
“There was that possibility that I wouldn’t be back. But I reapplied because this is where I wanted to be. Thankfully it worked out that way.” Dodson said.
Despite Dodson’s presence and the wide margin of victory, the game wasn’t all smooth sailing. Greenfield-Central had major turnover problems, including on its opening possession.
After the Cougars had supplied the Blue Devil defense steady doses of senior running back Cameron Nuckols and junior running back Andy Kim, Greenfield-Central pushed the ball all the way down the field and inside the Blue Devils’ 10 yard line. But that’s where misfortune struck. As Kim was falling into the end zone, he lost control of the ball, and a Blue Devils defender recovered for a touchback.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, that was only the first of three more fumbles to come.
“We had those four turnovers. I don’t like seeing the ball on the ground. We can’t do that in the future. Usually you get a couple of them, but not four,” Dodson said.
Fortunately for Dodson and Kim, who finished with 99 yards on 20 carries, he didn’t have to wait too long to make amends. On the following series, Cougars’ sophomore cornerback Austin Herald jumped in front of Blue Devils quarterback Gearld Garrett’s pass, giving the Cougars the ball back near midfield.
From there, Kim and Nuckols went back to work, pounding away against a defense allowing six to seven yards a pop. With just over a minute left in the first quarter, Nuckols punched in a 3-yard touchdown, scoring the first points of the Cougars’ 2014 season.
Shortridge, however, was able to respond quickly, as their dual-threat quarterback, who kept the Cougars’ defense off balance all night, completed 67-yard touchdown pass to senior Justin Mourning.
Dodson was impressed with the stockpile of athletes his opponents boasted, saying they probably had three or four Division I athletes on the field. Those athletes, he said, made the Blue Devils capable of scoring at any time and provided, “a good challenge for our defense.”
His defense responded by keeping Blue Devils to just a pair of offensive scores, despite allowing more than 300 yards through the air.
And his offense didn’t get caught up trying to match the Blue Devils big play for big play. Instead they went back to what they think they do best.
On the next series, and for the rest of game, they were content to hand the ball to Kim and Nuckols, who finished with a game-leading 209 yards on 25 carries, and a host of other backs, including sophomores Skylar Gary (97 yards on seven carries) and Michael Sosnowski (87 yards on six carries).
In fact, junior quarterback Jeremiah Fields only threw the ball twice the entire game.
No, the Cougars knew their game plan was to wear down an undermanned Blue Devils defense and take advantage of the fact that many of the tired Shortridge players, many of whom were playing both offense and defense.
“We knew we were going to run it down their throats. We’re not a very fast team, and we have a great O-line. And Andy Kim lead-blocking for me, I mean that’s heaven,” Nuckols said
It sure seemed that way. Midway through the second quarter, the Cougars’ perseverance paid off, as the combination of Nuckols and Kim worked its way down field until Nuckols was able to shake off a couple tackles near the goal line and score, pushing the Cougars’ lead to 13-6, a lead they would take into the locker room at halftime.
When play resumed, it was more of the same for the Cougars. Lots of Nuckols and Kim, who kicked off the scoring in the third quarter with a 5-yard run, making the score 21-6 after Fields completed a pass to senior Tino Faitele for a 2-point conversion.
The Blue Devils, especially Garrett, still weren’t finished fighting however, as the quarterback lead his team down field until finally he scrambled into the endzone with no time remaining in the third quarter to bring the score to 21-12. But that would be as close as Shortridge would get.
Greenfield-Central responded with not one but two quick touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. The first game on a 17-yard Fields throw to senior tight end Ethan Kahl. Then, after recovering an onside kick, Gary scampered around the edge for a 30-yard touchdown pushing the lead to an insurmountable 34-12.
“Everybody wants to win the first game,” Dodson said. “It’s a good way to start the season. It takes the pressure off trying to come back and win next week.”