Jyrea Martin’s persistence has paid off.
Greenwood coach Dan Pippin first let Martin, a junior linebacker, run the ball in spring practice a few plays so he’d stop asking to run.
After the fifth game of the season, however, it was Martin’s toting the ball that spearheaded a surprising 49-22 upset of T.L. Hanna last Friday. The Eagles earned their first region win and handed T.L. Hanna, ranked No. 6 in the state leading up to the game, its first loss.
Martin has been chosen as Player of the Week for Week 6 by the Index-Journal. His 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns propelled Greenwood to the shocking upset. Martin had six total tackles at linebacker.
Back at school Monday, Martin felt the joy of securing a win that is sure to change the tone of Greenwood’s season.
“Everybody was congratulating us on that win and telling me how big I played on Friday,” Martin said. “It was just great.”
One of Martin’s touchdowns came late in the third quarter, when he caught a pitch from Ahmari Coats and completed a hook-and-ladder play to make the score 28-14.
Pippin has tried the play a couple of times this season, but the initial pass was incomplete each time. In fact, the play had only ever worked in practice before Friday night.
“I’ve had it in for 24 years as a head coach, and it’s worked one time,” Pippin said.
Martin asked Pippin to call the play over and over again as the Eagles marched down the field. When Greenwood faced third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Pippin acquiesced.
“I knew we were going to score because they thought Ahmari was going to get the ball,” Martin said with a smile.
Martin, a team captain, started the season solely playing linebacker. As injuries piled up, Martin stepped in at running back in a 21-7 loss to Laurens. He had 48 yards against Laurens, and the move to running back looked promising for future games.
Pippin had been afraid Friday’s humid conditions would foil Martin’s desire to play both ways as often as he wanted. Martin was held out with cramps at times during the second and third quarters, but stepped in when the team needed him.
“The kid always wants to be in,” Pippin said. “He wants to do everything. He does a great job and he’s a tremendous leader. He’s a great athlete and a great football player. He’s a better kid and a better leader, so that’s pretty cool.”
Pippin said even bigger things could come from Martin as the weather becomes cooler and Martin is able to play both ways more comfortably.
Friday’s win changes the outlook of Greenwood’s season greatly. The Eagles are 1-2 in Region 1-5A with winless Wade Hampton next on the schedule.
More than anything else, the win raised the spirits of Greenwood’s players and reinvigorated an offense that struggled mightily to start the year.
“It boosts our confidence,” Martin said. “Everybody’s confident now.”