By Richard Fairman
High school football is in full swing in the Bluegrass state, and the Meade County High School Greenwaves were looking to kick off the season with a bang on September 11, in their season opener against the John Hardin Bulldogs.
Meade received the ball first, and the offense went straight to the run game to move the ball up the field. They were stopped by the John Hardin defense and forced to punt.
Meade’s defense matched that of John Hardin’s, not allowing them a first down, and forcing them to punt. The first half became a defensive showdown, as each team continued to stop any momentum and keep the other from getting first downs.
“You know, before the game, I told the guys that when we go out there between the white lines it’s going to give us just a little while to forget about what’s going on,” Head Coach Larry Mofield said. “But when you’re on the field, it’s going to feel normal, and to us normal is playing the game.”
Meade continued to pound the ball but just was never able to get it in the endzone during the first half. The closest Meade got was on their last drive before half. Meade went to the air with only 1:25 left on the clock to try and get some points up on the board. After a pair of incompletions, Meade gave the ball to Senior Austin Oppel who moved the ball on the ground, running 11-yards for a first down. Then he added another run for 10-yards getting Mead to John Hardin’s 31-yard line but that would be as close as Meade got before the horn sounded at the half.
“I’ve said it in the past that the team that makes the least mistakes is probably going to win,” Mofield commented the first half play. “I was impressed with the way our guys held them. We’ve moved some guys around to fill in for injuries and when you do that it could be hit or miss, but our guys did well, and I think that they’re up for the challenge.”
Meade came out in the second half looking to make a statement. They did just that on the initial play when a John Hardin player fumbled the initial kickoff and Junior Levi Stull came sliding in for the recovery, giving Meade the ball on John Hardin’s 34-yard line. John Hardin’s defense did not allow Meade a single yard, forcing a punt. Both team were once again locked into a defensive battle, keeping each team from gaining any real yardage, but John Hardin would catch a break late in the third quarter. Meade was pinned down on their own three yard line, and john Hardin was able to force a fumble in the end zone and recover it for the touchdown. They added the extra point to go up 7-0 over Meade.
Meade would dominate the ball after the John Hardin touchdown, starting with Oppel receiving a kick on Meade’s two-yard line, breaking a pair of tackles, to take the ball up field for 38-yards. Meade pounded the ball on the ground getting the first down and moving to the red zone. Meade would get on the board less than two-minutes into the fourth when junior Kyle Parker hit Oppel in the corner of the endzone for the touchdown. Meade would miss the extra point to leave them down by one, 6-7, with 9:37 left in the game.
With under five-minutes remaining in the game, it seemed as though John Hardin was content with running out the clock or getting as much time as they could off the clock, but Meade’s defense came up with the big play their offense needed. With 2:02 remining, Junior Mason Brandon punched the ball free while tackling the John Hardin runner. As the ball bounced on the turf, Meade Senior Eli Ridgeway recovered it on Meade’s own 39.
That play lit the fire in Meade’s offense that it needed, when they took the field. With 1:16 left, Parker hit Oppel in the middle of the field at the John Hardin 24 for a 30-yard gain, setting up a first and ten. After a pair of incomplete passes, Parker connected with Oppel once again. Oppel had to split two defenders, with one getting a finger on the ball, causing Oppel to bobble it three times before finally bringing it in for the go-ahead touchdown. Oppel would also add a two-point conversion giving Meade the 14-7 led with just 51 seconds left on the clock.
“I feel like nobody expected this, and down fourth and twenty, I told coach give me a chance, I can beat him, and he trusted me enough to put the ball in my hands,” said Oppel, after the game. “The O- line did their part all game long. They say playmakers make plays, but credit to my QB (Kyle Parker) to trust me and put it in a spot where I could have a chance to make a play. This team is different, nobody believes what we can do, but we’re about to show them what we can do.”