By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
It’s been almost a decade since a Greenville High football team was undefeated through a season’s first four weeks. And Friday night’s 21-16 Region 3-AA triumph at Sharon was the product of some textbook Trojans’ offense.
But standing on the Tiger Stadium turf in the moments afterward, Trojans’ taskmaster Brian Herrick was waiting to exhale.
“We still make too many mistakes on offense to be a championship team. We’ve got a long ways to go,” Herrick admitted.
Matt Jones tossed 55- and 20-yard touchdowns to Luke Houpt as the Trojans took a 14-10 margin at intermission.
Then led by Nick Black, Greenville ground out a 13-play, 80-yard, 6-minute, 42-second drive to commence the 2nd half. Black bulldozed in from a yard out, and Casey Eells’ 3rd PAT gave Greenville a seemingly safe 21-10 lead.
Sharon responded, though, with Andrew Tomko’s 12-yard TD toss to Anthony Johnson with 1:12 left in the 3rd quarter, as Sharon surged within 21-16. The Tigers’ attempted a 2-point PAT pass to Johnson, but he was ruled out of bounds.
During the 4th frame the Trojans twice had opportunities for insurance against Sharon, only to come away empty-handed.
A 12-play series consumed almost 6 full minutes, but Eells’ 20-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
After Sharon’s ensuing series ended 4-and-out — Tomko’s 4th-and-4 pass from his own 26-yard line fell incomplete — the Trojans took over with 4:58 remaining and favorable field position. But Jones’ 3rd-and-14 scramble for 10 yards ended in a fumble, with Anthony Johnson recovering for the Tigers at their 20 with 3:20 remaining.
Sharon, however, already had used its 3-timeout quota, which ultimately taunted the Tigers.
Tomko tossed a 52-yard 1st-down pass to Carnell Hawkins, enabling Sharon to get to Greenville’s 23-yard line. Following Hawkins’ 8- and 1-yard runs, Tomko, flushed from the pocket, scrambled to his right and threw back across the middle to Johnson for a 1st down at the Trojans’ 8.
With the clock ebbing Tomko was forced to spike the ball with 53.4 ticks to play, then his 2nd-down pass to Hawkins in the corner of the end zone 5 seconds later soared out of the end zone.
With the outcome on the line Tomko twice was taken down, first by end Justin Reynolds for a 14-yard sack on 3rd down, then by Alex Gentile for another 10-yarder on 4th down with only 6.5 seconds left.
“We made more mistakes than they did,” lamented Tigers’ taskmaster Jim Wildman, “and generally, with two evenly-matched teams, a game comes down to five or six plays you can pick out. ... And that’s the game.
“When we get to that point where we’re starting to make more (plays) than the other team, we’ll be okay,” Wildman continued, later adding, “You can’t jump offsides five times in a game, and I could go on. But that’s beside the point.”
Though his Trojans improved to 3-0 in District 10 Region 3-AA — with wins at Hickory and Sharon — and 4-0 overall for the first time in the program since 2004, Herrick wasn’t completely happy, either.
“I’m proud of the kids, they sucked it up and made some plays at the end,” Herrick assessed. “I thought the defense played huge.”
But Herrick was unhappy with missed opportunities. A 35-yard scoring strike from Jones to tight end Justin Reynolds with 12.1 seconds left in the half was negated by a holding penalty. That and the 4th frame miscues could prove costly moving forward.
“I’m very disappointed in that. That last drive, when you’re in four-down territory, you’ve gotta pound the ball in, and that’s my fault — it got a little hectic on the sideline, and that’s my fault. We’ll clean that up,” Herrick promised.
Though Black may not be the prototypical Trojans’ tailback and is coming off foot surgery, Herrick noted, he gave Greenville’s ground game 58 yards, while Trey VanAken (79), Tyler Fattman (57) and Cody Nellis (32) also did their own damage as the Trojans tallied 247 yards.
Collectively, they were slightly more potent than Tigers’ tailback Hawkins, who had 190 yards on 21 totes, including a 60-yard 1st-quarter scoring sprint that staked Sharon to a 7-0 lead.
“He is one heckava back,” Herrick praised, admitting, “If we don’t do a better job tackling, we’ll have a long night next week (at Grove City).”
Sharon (2-1, 2-2), like Greenville, is eagerly anticipating the season unfolding.
“ ... People are gonna hear from us before it’s over,” Wildman forecasted. “Greenville gets the kudos. They did a nice job, they have a nice football team. Somebody sees ’em tonight, I’m not sure Greenville upset Hickory.
“But my concern right now is our team. They played forty-eight minutes of football,” Wildman continued. “We let down on that drive in the third quarter, but never gave up. And these sixty kids in (the locker room) aren’t gonna give up for the next six, seven, eight, nine weeks, or whatever it takes.”
“(First place in Region 3-AA) sounds good,” Herrick admitted, cautioning, “but we know what’s comin’ next week.”
GREENVILLE 7 7 7 0 21
SHARON 7 3 6 0 16
S — Hawkins, 60 run (Alfreno kick)
G — Houpt, 55 pass from M. Jones (Eells kick)
G — Houpt, 20 pass from M.Jones (Eells kick)
S — Gill, 25 field goal
G — Black, 1 run (Eells kick)
S — Johnson, 12 pass from Tomko (pass failed)
19 First downs 10
244 Rushing yards 153
154 Passing yards 106
14-7--1 Att-comp-int 16-8-0
398 Total yards 259
2-1 Fumbles-lost 2-0
7-58 Penalties-yards lost 7-54
Rushing: GREENVILLE — VanAken 7-79, Black 17-58 Fattman 10-57, M.Jones 4-18; SHARON — Hawkins 21-190, Johnson 2-8, Tomko 4-(-45).
Passing: GREENVILLE — M.Jones 14-7-1, 154; SHARON — Tomko 16-8-0, 106.
Receiving: GREENVILLE — Houpt 6-131, VanAken 1-23; SHARON — Hawkins 4-70, Mosley 2-18, Johnson 2-18.