Greene County beat one of its biggest rivals last week
Trash talk is a constant in sports, especially when it comes to rivalries.
Teams always play with chips on their shoulders and try to one-up their opponents. Spend any length of time watching or playing athletics and it’s apparent that’s a natural element.
But the build-up to last week’s Greene County-Hancock Central game, which Greene won, 31-14, reached a fever pitch in terms of talking smack. Social media was flooded with posts from fans of both sides declaring their team would win. A heavy portion of the chatter, though, came from Sparta.
One community member went so far as to create hype videos laying out the reasons Hancock would blow out the Tigers. It was something that looked more like it belonged in the WWE than high school football.
Greene’s players saw all of the commotion. They were quiet all week then did their talking on the field with the blowout win.
“Some guy over in Hancock put out two videos and, I tell ya, I couldn't thank him enough,” Tigers head coach Larry Milligan said. “I'd buy him a Co-Cola right now if he was around, just because I think he helped motivate our guys.”
The Tigers asserted themselves early. They got the ball to start and, after a couple of plays moved them backward, they lined up deep in their own territory facing third down.
Quarterback C’Darius Kelley then ripped off a long run that nearly went for a touchdown. Tailback Fred Hall carried the ball on the next play and scored.
After the touchdown, Greene’s defense gave up a few chunk plays to the Bulldogs. The Tigers stopped Hancock at Greene’s 5-yard line on a series that went a full four downs. Greene stayed in control the rest of the way.
“That was huge,” Kelley said regarding the game’s first two drives. “Before the game started, we were all about scoring and getting a stop. That's all we needed to set the tone. We scored and we got the goal-line stop. That was huge. It set the tone for the game.”
Hancock, which entered the game 5-1 with three blowout wins on its record, was limited to just 242 total yards.
Montez Mapp led the Tigers’ defense with 10 total tackles, including two tackles for loss, one of which was a sack. Anton Kilpatrick had six tackles, two of which were sacks on the final drive of the game.
Trez Brown picked off a pass early in the fourth quarter to end a Hancock scoring threat. The Tigers’ secondary totaled four pass breakups.
“I can't brag on our defensive players and coaches enough,” Milligan said. “I thought their game plan was excellent and really shut down a high-scoring offense that was averaging 30-something points a game. The coaches are doing a fantastic job. The defensive players did a fantastic job, till late in the game and we started having to substitute and replace kids who were cramping. That hurt us a little bit.”
Kelley went 13-for-24 with 141 yards passing. He threw two interceptions, one of which was a result of a tipped pass off the hands of a Greene receiver.
There was one touchdown pass, though, which was caught by Demetrius Mitchell. The Tigers’ wide receiver was sandwiched between two defenders and had little room in the end zone but he leapt and secured the grab with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
“I told him before the snap I was just going to give him a chance,” Kelley said. “We had our minds set before the play. I threw it up and I trusted him.”
Mitchell said he was surprised to see the pass thrown to him considering the double coverage.
“There were two people who closed me in,” Mitchell said. “I didn't expect the ball to come to me. I saw it, I had to attack it. [A defender] tried to pull it out. I couldn't let that happen again.”
One Hancock defender ripped the ball out of Mapp’s hands earlier in the game, which caused Kelley’s other interception. Mitchell said that play keyed him in on Hancock’s plan to strip the ball out of the Tigers’ hands at any opportunity.
Kelley ran for 74 yards and one touchdown. Fred Hall worked as the Tigers’ No. 1 tailback. He ran 11 times for 29 yards and the game’s opening score.
Although Hall did not have huge numbers, he still helped the Tigers throw body blows at the Bulldogs’ defense. Milligan said that was important, especially considering the team was without its usual first-string tailback Dmyron West, who was suspended last week following an ejection the week before at Warren County.
“I thought he ran the ball well,” Milligan said. “We still missed Dmyron big-time, he's a great football player, but it's not just a one-man show around here. Everybody steps up and Fred stepped up in his place and did a great job.”
West will return this week, and that’s good news for the Tigers. They face a tough challenge at Lincoln County, which is 2-4 on the season but had close losses against good teams.
Milligan said his team will be greatly tested over the next several weeks but he’s confident his players can handle it.
“It isn't easy,” Milligan said. “You go from Hancock, now we've got Lincoln, then we've got Aquinas, then we've got Wilkes. That's Murderers' Row right there. But, if we can keep getting better, we can win. We'll play one game at a time and see what happens.”