GREENVILLE – As the final minute ticked down at Sirrine Stadium, hands wrung and a few on the Greenwood sideline muttered, “Here we go.”
Greenville started a drive from its own 10-yard line. What would normally have been some throwaway seconds instead represented a last-chance try for Greenville to steal a playoff berth.
The Eagles’ defense stood strong, stopping Greenville from completing a pass and preserving a 50-27 win. Greenwood locked up a playoff berth on the points-allowed tiebreaker. The tension burst as players dumped the water bucket on first-year coach Chris Liner in celebration.
What Greenwood went into as the biggest game of the season had turned into a blowout early. The Eagles scored on all but one of their first-half drives, drew Greenville offside several times and dominated first-half possession to earn the upset win against the No. 3-ranked team in the state.
“Our guys came ready to play,” Liner said. “They didn’t let last week faze them at all. If you’re going to call yourself a champion at the end of the year, that’s what you do. You pick yourself up off the floor, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Greenville scored the first touchdown on a quick drive that included two long passing plays. Soon after, Greenwood’s defense and clock-draining option offense took hold.
The Eagles led 21-7 after the first quarter, with touchdowns from Chris Simmons, Jaylin Tolbert and KJ Scott.
Tamaje Aiken added a touchdown in the second quarter, then a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Scott brought Greenwood to its largest lead at 36-7.
Three Greenwood running backs finished with more than 80 yards. Carlos Norman had 90 yards on six carries, Tolbert had 82 yards on 15 carries and Simmons had 88 yards on 20 carries. KJ Scott scored three rushing touchdowns with 63 yards on eight carries.
Greenwood jumped to the early lead by controlling the clock with long drives. The Eagles also recovered two fumbled kickoff receptions in a row in the first quarter. By the time Greenville started its second drive of the game, Greenwood had already scored on four of five possessions.
The Eagles kept their first drive of the game going deep into Greenville territory with a fake punt in which Jyrea Martin rushed for a first down.
In beating Greenville in such dominating fashion, Greenwood more than made up for the miscues that resulted in last week’s 34-21 loss to Greer.
“I really don’t think we’d compete like this tonight, had we not had a gut check last week,” Liner said. Sometimes you just need that.”
Among many adjustments Liner made was to move coordinators from the press box to the field. The team went no-huddle and switched calls at the line of scrimmage often, which resulted in Greenville jumping offside eight times in the first half. The Red Raiders also had trouble substituting players, which led to several more penalties.
“They got tired fast,” Scott, who plays fullback and defensive end, said. “We weren’t tired. We were better conditioned. It just worked, because we practice how we play.”
Scott, who plays fullback and defensive end, is excited to continue into the postseason.
“It feels amazing,” Scott said. “Exciting. Can't wait for what the future holds.”
Greenwood has two remaining games, against Boiling Springs and Emerald, before it starts the playoffs. The Eagles are second in the region, and can only win the region if Greer loses to Laurens next Friday.
Greenwood 21 22 0 7 – 50
Greenville 7 7 7 6 – 27
GR – Khalique Holland 21 pass from Prometheus Franklin (Landon Perdue kick)
GW – Jaylin Tolbert 1 run (Grant Reagin kick)
GW – Chris Simmons 19 run (Reagin kick)
GW – KJ Scott 33 run (Reagin kick)
GW – Tamaje Aiken 12 run (Tolbert run)
GW – Scott 5 run (Reagin kick)
GR – Holland 10 run (Perdue kick)
GW – Scott 3 run (Reagin kick)
GR – Aziz Huff 7 pass from Franklin (Perdue kick)
GW – Tolbert 2 run (Reagin kick)
GR – Mike Sanders 23 pass from Franklin (kick failed)
Rushing – GW: Jaylin Tolber 15-82, Chris Simmons 20-88, Carlos Norman 6-90, Jyrea Martin 6-45, KJ Scott 8-63, Tamaje Aiken 3-20. GR: Khalique Holland 3-72, Preston Lounds 14-38, Prometheus Franklin 1-20, Josh Sapp 3-10.
Passing – GW: Jaylin Tolbert 2-3-0-65. GR: Prometheus Franklin 12-20-0-211.
Receiving – GW: Ahmari Coats 2-65. GR: Josh Sapp 2-52, Mike Sanders 1-23, Khalique Holland 3-72.