Commerce upended Greene County 35-7 on Friday, Oct. 1 behind its strong rushing attack led by freshman Jaiden Daniels.
Daniels proved to be too much for a Tigers’ defense that couldn’t contain the run. The freshman tailback rushed for 309 yards on 25 attempts with three scores, which all came in the first half against Greene County. Daniels also had an interception in the second off Tigers’ quarterback DJ Smith.
Greene County head coach Larry Milligan described Friday night’s events as a “team loss”.
“Our defense was tired and stayed on the field all night because we couldn’t get things going offensively,” Milligan said. “We were in our ballerina offense. It was 1-2-3 kick or 1-2-3 turnover. It’s hard to get your defense off the field when the offense can’t execute correctly.”
Milligan’s frustrations were warranted as the Tigers’ offense only produced two rushing yards in the first half.
“We had penalties, turnovers and blocking assignments,” he added. “Just about anything you can name, we did it wrong.”
The first quarter ended with two goose eggs on the scoreboard for both teams. Even so, Greene County got lucky because Commerce had two explosive runs that were called back for chop blocks. Both offenses struggled with penalties, mainly holding and offside infractions. Nevertheless, Commerce was able to get things going offensively in the second quarter.
After stopping Greene County on a 3rd-and-21, the visiting Tigers took over on their opponents’ 45-yard line. Daniels had consecutive 10-yard runs, setting up Commerce near the red zone. A few plays later, junior running back Malachi Shockley bullied his way inside the home Tigers’ 10-yard line. That’s when Daniels scored from 5 yards out for his initial touchdown.
A few drives later, Greene County recovered a fumble and it looked like it would lead to some momentum. The home Tigers’ drive wouldn’t last long as Smith threw an interception on the following play, which was bobbled off Arkiyus Wright’s hands. On the ensuing play, Daniels broke away on the outside edge and found the endzone after a 39-yard run with 4:24 left in the opening half.
That really was the turning point as Daniels added his third and final score before halftime, giving Commerce a 21-0 lead. Greene County was able to mount a scoring drive after picking up a fumble in the middle of the third quarter. The Tigers moved the ball efficiently with freshman Steve Miller picking up a chunk gain on an end-around. Then, Smith found paydirt a few plays later, scoring from two yards out.
Milligan said that he felt like Greene County was back in the game following Miller’s touchdown.
“Mentally in the first half, we kind of lost focus,” he added. “We were hoping that would inspire them a little, but then we came right back out and made a couple of more mistakes. We’re just young and need to quit that habit of making too many mistakes.”
Greene County tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by Commerce. The visiting Tigers took over at midfield and quickly moved the ball inside the opposing red zone after a long run by Daniels on a jet sweep. Greene County was able to hold Commerce on 4th-and-12 and took over deep in its own territory. The home Tigers moved the chains once before facing a 3rd-and-10 to start the fourth quarter.
The final nail in the coffin for Greene County came over a series of consecutive plays. First, Smith was intercepted by Daniels, which was followed by a 38-yard touchdown run by Dreylan Martin. Commerce’s Jackson Morris then intercepts a Greene County pass on the following drive, which set him up nicely for the final touchdown of the game. The senior running back broke free on a halfback draw and found the endzone, making it 35-7 with five minutes left in the contest.
Milligan acknowledged that Commerce’s physicality wasn’t the only problem in the loss.
“They are always tough and play a really physical game,” he said. “But the problem wasn’t Commerce, the problem was Greene County. We’ve been making the same mistakes for the last three weeks and they aren’t getting corrected. So, we’ve got to do something different moving forward.”
Greene County (3-3, 0-1) will travel to Washington-Wilkes next week for its biggest matchup of the season.