By Eddie Mowen Jr.
GREENVILLE — After a first half during which not much went in favor of the home team, Greenville mounted a second-half rally against visiting Eaton but ultimately came up short on the scoreboard, falling 32-18 in the season opener for both football teams on Thursday, Aug. 19.
The Green Wave scored on its first possession of the game, but struggled to get much else going offensively in the first 24 minutes, trailing 18-3 at the half.
“Not much goes your way in the first half and then, you know, it wasn’t really any major adjustments, it was just kids doing what they’re supposed to do,” Greenville coach Bart Schmitz said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, and as a coach that’s really all you can ask for is you had a chance to win and at the end.”
Trailing 25-18, Greenville took possession at its own 27-yard line with 4:02 left in the game. The Green Wave, behind the running of Brock Short and the arm of quarterback Hayden Bush (10-for-20, 150 yards), mounted a 12-play drive to the Eaton 13-yard-line and faced a fourth-and-five with 36 seconds left.
On the 13th play of the drive, Eaton’s Josh Martin intercepted a pass at the eight and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown to seal the Wave’s fate with 14 seconds remaining.
“At the end of the day Eaton made more plays than we did,” Schmitz said. “They’re a nice ball club, but we’re gonna be okay. We’re gonna learn from it and get better.”
Eaton began the scoring on its first possession of the game. The Eagles drove 75 yards in six plays, scoring a 2-yard TD pass on fourth-down from Brock Ebright to Breyden Boston. The point after try was blocked, leaving the score 6-0.
The Wave answered with a 8-play drive, which began at their own 20, that was capped by a 28-yard field goal by Avery Ernst.
Both teams traded punts until the Eagles broke through with a 14-yard TD pass from Ebright to Leslie Orr with 7:11 left in the first half for a 12-3 lead after another missed extra point attempt.
Greenville followed with a long drive that reached the Eaton 2-yard line, but on fourth down, the Wave came up short of the goal line.
With 2:45 remaining in the half and pinned deep, Eaton was content on running out the clock, but on the third play Aiden Williams broke free and raced 88 yards for a score and an 18-3 lead just before the half.
Momentum seemed to stay in the Eagles favor early in the third as they forced a turnover on the third play of the second half. However, the Wave’s defense came up big on the very next play and forced an Eaton fumble.
Greenville then drove 88-yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 14-yard TD pass from Bush to Million Bryant with 5:26 left in the quarter, to make it an 18-10 game.
The Wave defense came up big again as it forced an Eaton punt on the next possession.
Short, who rushed for 207 yards on 27 carries, capped off a 13-play drive with a 2-yard TD run with 9:48 left in the game. A successful two-point conversion tied the game 18-18.
Short proved to be difficult for Eaton to contain the entire game.
“He ran the ball really hard. Our offensive line did a nice job,” Schmitz said.
Eaton then used a 10-play drive to take over five minutes off the clock and regain the lead. Ebright connected with Martin on a 17-yard TD pass with 4:10 to play setting up the final drive.
“Like I said, anytime you can give yourself a chance to win at the end, as time’s going out, I mean as a coach that’s all you can ask for,” Schmitz said. “Just needed one more play and couldn’t get it.”
Greenville (0-1) is scheduled to visit Stebbins Friday, Aug. 27.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.