Any momentum Greenwood had Friday night was quickly dashed by East Central’s Sam Ringer’s 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Woodmen had just scored to cut the Trojans’ lead to 17-7 with 1:35 left in the first half. Ringer’s TD gave the Class 4A No. 5 Trojans a 23-7 lead en route to a 44-14 romp over visiting Greenwood Friday night in a 4A sectional opener.
“We had some momentum there, and credit to the kid, he stayed up and ran through 11 guys,” Greenwood running back and linebacker Gavin Ruppert said. “We didn’t put him on the ground. It something you can’t go back and change now. It killed our momentum, and nothing seemed to go our way.”
Woodmen coach Mike Campbell agreed Greenwood had the chance to stop him.
“We had 11 guys put their hands on him and we didn’t put him on the ground,” Campbell said. “Credit to that kid. He made a heck of a play.”
Campbell said East Central (8-2) made several big plays when they needed them.
“They were better than us tonight, and they showed that,” said Campbell, whose team finished with a 2-8 record. “We had some breakdowns and they had some guys make some pretty incredible plays. Sometimes that happens in football.”
Greenwood’s defense was holding its own earlier against an explosive East Central offense.
“We had a good game plan,” Ruppert said. “We struggled all season with big plays. That’s what happened tonight. We had them a couple of times, third and long and fourth and long, and we gave up the big play. That killed our defensive momentum, too.”
In fact, East Central took a 7-0 lead on Cole Burton’s 23-yard TD pass to Nate Buesing on a fourth-and-long play with 5:49 left in the first quarter. Sophie Browndyke’s 28-yard field goal pushed the Trojans’ lead to 10-0.
Burton connected with Eli Aston on a 29-yard TD pass with 5:55 remaining in the second quarter.
Greenwood capped a long drive with a 6-yard touchdown run by Noah Apgar with 1:35 left. Then came Ringer’s back-breaking kickoff return. East Central missed the PAT.
However, the Trojans got the ball back and scored on Burton’s third TD pass, a 13-yarder to Ryan Brotherton with 5:39 left in the third quarter to make it 30-7. Burton’s 33-yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the third quarter pushed the lead to 37-7.
After Greenwood’s offense failed to get a first down, Aston took a punt return 74 yards to make 44-7 with 2:39 left in the third quarter. That started the running clock.
Greenwood scored in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter on Ruppert’s 1-yard touchdown run. Ruppert finished with a team-high 74 rushing yards on 20 carries. Apgar finished with 44 yards on 14 carries and two catches for 35 yards.
“Those two kick returns and when we had them stopped, a couple of penalties hurt us,” Campbell said.
Ruppert completed his only pass attempt for 2 yards. Sophomore quarterback Brock Riddle was 2 of 14 passing for 37 yards.
Despite wet conditions, neither team had a turnover.
The game was reflective of Greenwood’s season.
“We couldn’t get momentum going and we couldn’t sustain momentum,” Campbell said. “We couldn’t do it in games. We couldn’t do throughout the season. It’s kind of where we were as football team. We’ll certainly get back to work on Tuesday and get the ship headed in the right direction.”
Campbell gathered his seniors at the end of the game.
“These seniors, I love these guys,” Campbell said. “They’re good football players, but they are better people and they are going to be successful in life.”