Catfight in the Camellia City
Fresh off a loss to the Wetumpka Indians last week, the Greenville High School Tigers took the home field for the first time this season looking for their first win of the season.
So did the Eufaula Tigers.
It was not to be as Greenville fell 3-0 to their second region foe of the season.
Eufaula strung together a drive late in the fourth quarter that took them from midfield to first and goal from the 8-yard line. Two plays later the Tigers were first and goal from the 26, thanks to the pressure of the Greenville defense. But, Eufaula answered the challenge with a 12-yard pass to put them back into field goal range.
With 3:00 left in the game, Ryan Puhr trotted onto the field with 31 yards separating Eufaula from the lead.
Puhr lined up and the ball was snapped. With one kick, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead late in the game.
"Thank goodness for our kicking game," said Dan Klages, coach of the Eufaula Tigers. "We work on it all the time and Puhr came through for us on that field goal. If not for that we'd be sitting here going to overtime. I think Greenville played hard and they did what they had to to win, but it just came down to who was going to score the points. And we did and they didn't."
With under 1:20 left to play, Greenville's defense forced a turnover and handed the offense their best starting field position of the night, the 50-yard line. But, the Tigers were unable to move the ball when quarterback Andrew Hartman tried to connect with receiver Isiah Mack twice. First on a deep route and then on a shorter play near the sideline.
The Tiger offense was in the shotgun and Hartman scanned the field on third down, but was sacked and nearly turned the ball over. The next play, he did just that. With 1:08 left on the clock, Hartman took the snap from center Benji Coghlan and scanned the defense, but before he could select a receiver he was met with great pressure from the Eufaula defense and was sacked by Terrance Mahoney and Daniel Orr. The 3-0 lead that Eufaula earned a minute ago turned into the final tally, moving Greenville to 0-3 on the season and Eufaula to 2-1.
"We just couldn't get it done," said Hartman. "We moved the ball well, but we had some costly turnovers that ended what we had going."
To start the game, Greenville took the opening possession with one goal in mind and that was too control the clock and that they did. For nearly the entire first quarter the Greenville offense had the ball running handoffs up the middle to fullback Michael McDonald or around the end on a counter to Isiah Mack.
After a string of third and ones and fourth and shorts, the Tigers in black were forced to give the ball up.
But, when Eufaula got the ball, they didn't have it long.
"We got after them on defense and kept the ball most of the first quarter," said Alvin Briggs, coach of the Greenville Tigers.
Late in the first quarter, GHS took over following a Eufaula punt. The Tigers strung together an offensive drive that took them inside the visiting Tiger 20. But, that drive was halted due to several penalties.
At the end of the first quarter, the score remained knotted at 0-0.
The second quarter was as hard hitting as the first, with neither team able to gain an advantage.
With time running down in the half, Greenville found themselves inside the Eufaula 30. This time, however instead of having Hartman follow center Benji Coghlan on a dive, they elected to for the field goal.
But, Briggs, reached into his bag of tricks and had the holder pitch the ball to McDonald on an end around. The play caught the Eufaula defense off guard and McDonald set back to pass. The pass was fired in the direction of the end zone and was caught, unfortunately for Greenville High, the pass was caught out of bounds, once again turning the ball over to Eufaula.
"We just played hard," Mack said. "Offensively, we just didn't come out and play hard enough."
The first half ended with the two teams stalemated at 0-0, although Greenville was the clear leader in time of possession and yards.
"We kind of felt each other out for a long time. I don't know if either team took the role of aggressor," Klages said. "Whenever we did something on offense we had a penalty and that hurt us and Greenville kept the ball away from us. We had something like nine plays in the first quarter."
The second half began with Eufaula taking the kickoff.
They met resistance early from the stingy Greenville defense.
The black-clad Tigers took the field and on second and 15, Hartman found Mack open for a big gain that put them at midfield. But, all they were unable to do anything with field position and were forced to trade punts yet again.
On the ensuing possession the Greenville defense had Eufaula punting from their own end zone. Deon Steele fielded the botched snap and booted the ball through the Tiger punt rush.
The play was summarized by the stadium announcer as a "a seeing-eye Phil Mickelson seven-iron through the nose guard and into the playing field."
Greenville took over on offense in an attempt to get some momentum back but, were forced to turn the ball over when McDonald was met at the middle of the line of scrimmage by a host of red and white jerseys.
Eufaula took over on offense and came out in the shotgun. Tiger quarterback Maurice Jackson took the snap on a designed quarterback boot around right end and through the heart of the Tiger defense for a huge gain before being tackled near midfield. The next play, Jackson connected with Jerrell Jernigan over the middle, once again moving the chains.
After being stopped for a minimal gain, the Eufaula field goal unit took the field.
The ball was snapped and Justin Hester came flying over the center's head and took the ball off the foot of the kicker, Puhr and down the field before being tackled.
"Just remarkable Justin Hester got through and took it off the guys foot just like he had been taught," Briggs said. "He was a fingernail away from breaking it for a score and I was praying that someone would block the guy that tackled him so he could break it. It Changed momentum for us, we had a chance, we drove down inside the 20 and had the opportunity again. but we shot ourselves in the foot."
The first play following the blocked field goal was called back for holding putting the Tigers at first and 20.
"We couldn't score," Briggs said. "We couldn't put the ball in the end zone. Defense played great tonight, they gave us every opportunity to win this ballgame."
After the Tigers turned the ball over, Eufaula took it down the field and Puhr split the uprights with a 31-yard field goal.
Greenville had the opportunity to answer as they took the following possession at midfield. But two incomplete passes and two sacks handed possession back to Eufaula who ran the clock out.
"Our kids fought hard, basically the defense," Briggs said.