Greensboro takes huge steps towards playoffs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2005

On paper, it looked like the Greensboro Raiders’ season was slipping away. After beginning 2005 with two big wins, Greensboro had lost three straight heading into last Friday’s regional showdown with Bibb Co., including an ugly 48-8 loss at home to Thomasville. But the story on the practice field, head coach Michael Reynolds said Monday, was very different from the one in the win-loss column.

“We never had our heads down, never felt sorry for ourselves,” he says. “We had a great week of practice. We’re getting them where we need to be. Friday was a huge step in figuring out our identity, who we are as a football team.”

Who the Raiders are, based on their 14-12 victory over the visiting Choctaws, is a gritty bunch of winners. After Greensboro had built a 14-0 lead on a Bruce Brown run and Ivory White touchdown pass, the Choctaws scored twice to pull within two. But the Raiders first stuffed the conversion to preserve the lead, and then turned Bibb away scoreless after multiple drives deep into Raider territory.

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“The defense played great,” Reynolds said. “They played with a lot of heart. We had three of four goal-line stands inside the ten-yard line. We just made the big plays when we needed to.”

The last stop came with only 47 seconds remaining in the game as Bibb had made one more entrance into the Raider red zone. But Bibb Co. quarterback Clay Jones was repeatedly put under too much pressure to find his receivers and Greensboro held.

With Bibb Co.’s offense known for putting the ball in the air much more often than most high school teams and the senior Jones more than capable of delivering accurate passes, Reynolds said his team’s defensive preparation focused on disrupting the Choctaws’ passing game with pressure. No one took the lesson closer to heart than Antonio Robinson, Adrian Williams, and LaDarius Thomas, three members of the Raiders’ defensive line that Reynolds gave credit for getting after Jones and preserve the win.

“They did a fantastic job of pressuring the quarterback,” he says.

The win gives Greensboro a huge leg up in the race for the playoffs in 4A Region 4. Demopolis and Jemison top the standings with identical 4-0 records, but at 2-2 and with the tiebreaker over closest rivals Bibb and Southside, Greensboro currently occupies the third position. Reynolds says the confidence boost from beating Bibb might be as critical as any edged in the standings.

“It was a very important win, especially for our morale with a tough game against Demopolis coming up,” he says. “We’re looking forward to it. It’ll be a great challenge and also a great opportunity for us.”

The win over Bibb was also a benchmark for how much progress Reynolds has made in his second season with the program. In Week 6 of 2004, Greensboro went on the road to Bibb and got blown out 27-0. This year, though–even if everything isn’t quite yet where Reynolds would like–was a very different story.

“Our offense shot itself in the foot some more, but I feel good about the progress we’re making,” he says. “We’ve got another week of practice ahead of us and we’re going to keep our boots on. We’re going to keep working. We’re going to teach these guys how to play for four quarters.”