Shaw column: Greenwood the latest Falcon star
MOUNT ULLA ó You don’t need a telescope to spot the brightest star in West Rowan’s constellation. He wears No. 2 and averages about 180 rushing yards per game.
But you may need help locating Austin Greenwood, the “Where’s Waldo” of the defense and the guy who has taken the Falcons where no West Rowan team has gone before ó to the 3A state semifinals.
“When one person is down, everybody else has to take their games to another level,” teammate Chris Smith said after West resorted to chicanery to gain a stunning come-from-behind win over Carver. “That’s Austin. Ever since Day 1 he’s been going hard in workouts. You gotta love a kid like that.”
On a night when K.P. Parks was shackled by Carver’s dirt-eating defense, Greenwood’s 50-yard dash for a touchdown on a fake punt with five minutes left told the tale.
Or at least, the last part of it.
“If we were gonna go down, we were going down with our guns empty,” coach Scott Young said. “We were gonna shoot every bullet we had. And we did. That was a mighty big bullet.”
It put the guests out of their postseason misery and helped the Falcons (13-1) wipe out deficits of 10-0 and 16-7. West had spent much of the evening running in place, trying to get Parks ignited while its defense worked feverishly to keep the S.S. Falcon afloat.
“Neither team was getting much done,” said Greenwood, a senior defensive back. “Someone had to do something.”
That someone was Greenwood, but here’s the twist:
“Half of us didn’t even know the fake was on,” he said. “(Young) called it right as we were taking the field. But no one on the other side heard him because of Carver’s band. They were pretty loud. That was a good band.”
As bespectacled Emily Litella used to say, hunched over the Saturday Night Live news desk, “Jane, it’s always something….”
West receiver Brantley Horton, standing on the sideline, had a front-row seat to the shenanigans.
“I had no idea we were using the fake,” he said. “But we turned it into a nice little play.”
Greenwood provided a memorable finish to a game that seemed like history. Halfway through the Falcons were scratching their heads, searching for a way to extend their season.
“At halftime that’s all we talked about,” Greenwood said. “No one was ready for it to be over. Nobody wanted to go home.”
Nine points down late in the third quarter, West’s fortune began to turn when defensive lineman Eli Woodson blocked a Carver extra point.
“That was huge,” Horton said.
So was the act Horton sold Carver’s defense in the final minute of the third quarter. It was West assistant Jeff Chapman who suggested running ‘QB-3′ ó a reverse-option pass play that proved successful in previous games against Lake Norman and Statesville.
“We were looking for ideas to jump-start the offense,” wideout Jon Crucitti said. “It’s something we’ve had in the playbook for a long time. It’s kind of a go-to play when you need to make something happen.”
Bingo. On first down from the West 40, quarterback B.J. Sherrill stuck a handoff in Crucitti’s gut as the receiver swept toward the left sideline. Once Carver’s pursuit bit on the run, Crucitti pulled up and lofted a spiral toward Horton ó who had slipped 15 feet beyond the Yellow Jackets’ deepest defender. Horton snagged the ball, broke for the right side and turned it into a 60-yard touchdown play.
“That play’s worked every time we’ve used it,” Horton beamed afterward. “I just go out and stalk the guy covering me and act like I’m there to block him. Then I release and take off behind him.”
The score pulled the Falcons within 16-14 entering the final quarter. The rest was up to West’s defense ó which got a fourth-down stop from Mackel Gaither and an interception from Greenwood to thwart Carver’s last two charges up the hill. Sandwiched between them was Greenwood’s fakeout of the season.
“There’s no tomorrow at this point,” said Young, who has called three fake punts this year. “There’s no use trying to save anything for another day. We’ve got to bring everything out. What we were doing wasn’t really working, so we had to reach into our bag of tricks.”
They reached in ó and pulled out a berth in the state semifinals.