There comes a moment of truth for every football team, a time when it is time to buck it up and respond.
For Greenwood, that moment came a few seconds into Friday night’s opener.
Playing with six key starters out for disciplinary reasons and injuries, the Class 4A Woodmen watched Class 5A Anderson take a quick 6-0 lead on a two-play 80-yard drive.
Rather than fold, the senior-led Woodmen answered. Oh, how they answered.
A slashing running attack led by senior quarterback Ben Heller and running backs Kyle Deal and Ethan Bailey scored eight of the next nine times it had the ball, while the defense handcuffed the Indians’ attack into nine straight empty possessions for an impressive 52-6 win.
“Football is a game of ups and down,” coach Mike Campbell said. “We know the test of our character will be when we are faced with an adverse situation. We talk all the time about when we face an adverse situation, how are we going to react?”
The Woodmen responded with an overwhelming running game that churned up 416 yards, including two scores each for Heller, Deal and Bailey.
“We knew we had to get going and put some points on the board,” said Heller, who got the Woodmen on the board with a 10-yard run less than a minute after Anderson scored, and added a second score on a 38-yard Griffin Oakes field goal to make it 17-6 Greenwood at the end of the first quarter.
Bailey and Deal combined for three more scores to make it 38-6 at halftime and deflate the opening night home crowd.
As impressive as the offense performed, it was Greenwood’s defense that was the difference maker on this night, containing scat back Beard and frustrating four-year starting quarterback Curtis Wilson into an off night.
Linemen Nick Meredith and Mike Lyons repeatedly penetrated the backfield, disrupting Beard before he could get to the corner and contributing to five sacks on the night.
“They got the first drive on us, but we knew we just had to adjust,” said Meredith, a 6-foot, 205-pound tackle. “We just played hard to overcome the adversity.”
After that first Indians drive, they did not cross midfield. The Woodmen forced them into six punts, two fumbles and a failed fake punt.
“We had to lean on the defense. We were shorthanded a bit,” Campbell said, referring to team penalties that kept five starters sidelined and a medical issue affecting center Austin Hord. “Our linebackers played extremely well, and our line started moving around well. Anderson is a very fast team, and it is hard for us to simulate that in practice.
“But once we got our feet wet, I was proud and happy of the way we played.”
The effective running opened the way for Jordan Betserai to make an impressive debut at wide receiver, which was one of the question marks for the Woodmen coming into this season. He caught three passes for 89 yards, including a nice comeback move to jump in front of a defender for a 39-yard gain.
“Jordan is a great athlete,” Campbell said of the player primarily used as a defensive back. “He is raw as a receiver but has really good athleticism and good hands. Ben has a lot of confidence in him.”
Sophomore Jake Hobson capped the scoring with a weaving 66-yard run.
Oakes also had an impressive opener, putting six of eight kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
The Woodmen outgained Anderson, 505 to 236 yards.
Greenwood hosts Indian Creek Friday.