Catawba Ridge hit the books this week, digging into film of their opponents Greenwood High all week before Friday night’s game under the lights at The Pit in Fort Mill.
And in the end, the visiting Eagles showed them a game plan that the Copperheads simply couldn’t match.
Fourth-ranked Greenwood outlasted second-ranked Catawba Ridge 17-14 Friday night in a battle of two talented teams ranked in the top five in South Carolina’s Class 4A, according to MaxPreps. In the S.C Media Poll, Catawba Ridge came in ranked fourth and Greenwood came in ranked ninth.
The Copperheads’ defense couldn’t handle Greenwood’s smash-mouth rush offense, which drained the clock and often involved a 3-or-4-yard result each play, along with a cloud of dust.
And on defense, the Eagles hassled Catawba Ridge quarterback Jadyn Davis all night long, forcing him into difficult throws on the run.
“They showed something completely different from what we saw on film,” said Copperheads’ head coach Zac Lendyak. “Our stuff was there; we just didn’t execute real well tonight. It took us a while to figure it out. We were off all night long… We were inside the 25 (yard line) like four or five times, and we didn’t score. When you do that, it’s tough to win a football game.”
Greenwood powered their offense almost entirely with running plays. VE Morton had 24 rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown and paced the Eagles, while quarterback Daylan Rappley, who had 14 rushes for 81 yards and a score, provided the first score on Greenwood’s opening drive.
Rappley burst through the middle from 18-yards out to give Greenwood an early 7-0 lead. Lendyak said it was hard to mimic the Eagles’ offense in practice.
“(Greenwood’s) probably been running it since May 1,” Lendyak said. “It’s really tough to stop. I was really proud of the defense, they held them in check for most of the night, but we couldn’t put enough on the board to bail them out tonight.”
And when Davis and the Catawba Ridge offense entered the fray, the Copperheads weren’t clicking.
Davis was rushed out of the pocket and sacked for a fumble on his first drive, which eventually led to Greenwood’s second drive and a 35-yard field goal by kicker Billy Pruitt.
Morton fumbled the ball deep in Greenwood territory soon after, but Catawba Ridge was forced into a four-and-out on the ensuing drive.
If Catawba Ridge was going to show any signs of life in the first half, it had to be just before the buzzer.
The Copperheads recovered their second straight fumble inside the Eagles’ red zone with a minute left before halftime.
By then, Davis showed signs of struggling, and had already thrown an interception after getting chased out of the pocket and throwing across his body.
Starting on the Greenwood 20, Davis threw incompletions on his first two downs. But on third down and 10, he finally stepped up in the pocket with confidence to find running back Henry Bowen in the right side of the end zone to cut the Greenwood lead to 10-7 just seconds before the break.
After the break, Greenwood’s slow-but-steady offense continued to churn more and more time off the clock.
Jacobie Henderson was able to pick off a rare Eagles’ pass late in the third quarter to give Catawba Ridge a chance to pull ahead, but the offense’s next drive ended with another sack and a four-and-out.
Lendyak said Greenwood was able to exert much more pressure on Davis than the team was expecting. The Eagles threw a variety of blitz packages at Catawba Ridge, frustrating the offense and forcing Davis into tough situations.
Still, the Copperheads made things harder on themselves by picking up unnecessary penalties.
Running back Tyler Jones nearly gave Catawba Ridge a touchdown from just a few yards out, but a holding penalty negated the play. Davis was then sacked for the final time on the next play, ending the drive.
Greenwood’s Morton converted a fourth and goal on the four to give Greenwood a 17-7 lead deep into the fourth quarter.
By that time, Catawba Ridge finally looked like they had come to life. Davis led a 16-play, 80-yard drive with four minutes remaining before letting Jones scamper into the end zone from 15-yards out to cut the lead to 17-14 with less than a minute to go.
But the Copperheads’ onside kick was easily recovered by Greenwood, giving the Eagles an emotional non-region road win.
“I told them, ‘We’re a better football team tonight than when we took the field,” Lendyak said. “We’re a better team than 24 hours ago, I told them, ‘We can come back on Monday and let them win twice by being down on ourselves,’ but I think they want to get better. They’re down on themselves, but that’s part of football.”
Catawba Ridge next travels to Concord to play West Cabarrus in a non-region game 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.