The Greeneview High School football team clinched a share of its second straight Ohio Heritage Conference South Division title Thursday night.
Greeneview senior Collin Wilson returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and the Rams cruised to a 66-8 victory over Catholic Central at Don Nock Field.
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Greeneview never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 60-0 halftime lead.
The division title is the culmination of months of hard work, Rams senior quarterback Nick Clevenger said.
“It’s something we’ve worked basically all year long for,” he said. “Football isn’t just a fall sport for us. It’s a winter, spring, summer and fall sport for us. It’s nice to be able to put the hard work in and see the results.”
Greeneview improved to 8-1 and 4-0 in the division. They can clinch the title outright and a perfect 5-0 division mark for the second consecutive year with a victory over Madison Plains (2-6, 2-1) next Friday night.
“(The title) is something that can never be taken away from a group of kids,” Rams second-year coach Ryan Haines said. “That banner is going to hang in the gymnasium for a long time. We want to win it outright next week, but it’s good going into Week 10 knowing we’ve got secured in our back pocket.”
Wilson caught the ball on the 25-yard line and sprinted up the right hash virtually untouched on his way to the end zone. Clevenger had never seen his teammate run so fast through such a big hole, he said.
“He me asked how fast it looked like he was running and told him it looked he was running a 4.1 (40-yard dash),” Clevenger said.
On the ensuing possession, Clevenger intercepted an Irish pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to take a 13-0 lead.
Clay Payton and Ian Tamplin each had two TD runs, while Clevenger, Dakota Mangan, Levi Rudduck and Craig Finley also had rushing TDs.
Haines talked to his team before the game about starting fast and playing with passing against the Irish, who entered the game as big underdogs, he said. Haines knew the Irish were never going to let up, despite having 15 players, he said.
“Earlier in the week on TV (Irish coach Mike McKenna) talked a little bit about them having a David vs. Goliath mentality,” Haines said. “We know how that ended up. Those things can happen. We challenged our kids on a short week to be locked in mentally.”
The Rams are likely headed to the playoffs in Week 11, but it’s unclear who or where they’ll play. Greeneview can still host a playoff game, but a lot of scenarios remain between now and Oct. 28 when the OHSAA releases its playoff pairings.
“My coaches tease me about how much I obsess over it, but it’s a fun time,” Haines said. “It’s great to be part of it. You talk about taking it one day at a time, we tell our kids to take it one play at a time. We’ve got to better in practice, every snap of the ball in all phases of the game.”
The Irish scored with 2:19 remaining in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jayden Borden found Patrick Kavanagh from 10 yards out to make 66-8. Catholic Central entered the game with just 15 healthy players, McKenna said.
The Irish moved the ball into Rams territory multiple times, but those drives were often stalled by a turnover.
“It seems to be our M.O. that when we get the ball moving, something happens,” McKenna said. “A lot of it goes to our youth and inexperience all over the field.”
Trailing 60-0 at the half, McKenna asked his team to win the second half. The Irish (0-9, 0-4) outscored the Rams 8-6 in the final two quarters.
“As little as that sounds, it’s something to them,” McKenna said. “We’ll take that momentum into Cedarville next week.”