Greene County didn’t want to see the rains come.
Still, despite a monsoon swamping Vancleave’s field for most of the third and fourth quarter, the Wildcats managed to hold on to a 7-6 win Friday night in Mississippi high school football in a defensive struggle that saw both teams held to under 200 yards each.
Noah Mitchell led Greene County with 11 stops and a fumble caused. Gabe Garcia led the Wildcats defensive line with five stops.
Cody Bean was everywhere for Vancleave’s defense with 14 stops.
“I think (the rain) hurt us more than it hurt them,” said Vancleave coach Lavon Capers.
In the rain, Vancleave lost a pair of fumbles, saw a field goal attempt end in a bad snap, and threw an interception that sealed the Wildcats win.
“It’s something we didn’t want to see,” said Greene County coach Michael King. “However, it proved to be an equalizer.”
The win gives the Wildcats their third win on the season.
“It’s been a long time since we started the season 3-0,” King said. “I’m hoping we can continue to ride this momentum through the rest of the season and keep it going.”
While Greene County’s offense struggled, the defense again came up big for the Wildcats. King noted his defense has allowed only one offensive touchdown - to Vancleave early in the second quarter - this year.
“Our defense has been playing big all year long,” he said. Behind a staunch defense, Greene County has won their last two games by a combined three points - a two-point win over George County, 14-12, where the Rebels scored on a pick six and recovered a fumble in the endzone following a sack, and Vancleave.
And, to get Friday’s win, the Wildcats (3-0) had to make several second half stands.
Vancleave (1-2) opened the third quarter with two quick Lane Wise runs up the middle for 26 yards to the Greene County 40. The Wildcats defense would hold, though, sacking Bulldogs Tristan Glass at the 50 and forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Anthony Blakely.
Greene County pushed the ball to the Bulldogs 16 behind Kyemonte Walker, but turned the ball over on downs at the Vancleave 20 in their only drive of the third quarter.
Vancleave responded with a 14-play drive, with a 17-yard pass play from Glass to Xaiver Bass followed by a personal foul call on the Wildcats providing a large chunk of the yardage. Again, the Wildcats defense stiffened stuffing three runs for two yards around a Bulldogs false start.
With a driving rain falling on the field, Capers sent out his field goal unit. “At fourth-and-13, there are not too many plays you can call,” Capers said, noting the hard rain prohibited a pass and the distance ruled against a run. “We took a chance with the field goal.”
However, the snap was low and never handled by the holder, who was buried for a six-yard loss as the Wildcats turned back another Bulldogs attempt.
With the rain making throwing difficult, Greene County turned to Walker and Tagg Creech, who ran for 19 yards on five plays to set up a short fourth-and-one at the Bulldogs 47. Walker, though, was stopped just short of a first down by Vancleave’s Jimmy Bates, to give the Bulldogs another chance to go up.
A Vancleave fumble, though, with 3:34 left, however, and a 43-yard ramble by Creech seemed to seal the win for the Wildcats. The run, though, was called back due to illegal motion in the backfield and Vancleave’s defense held to force a short punt that gave the Bulldogs renewed life at the 50.
At first, it looked like Vancleave would make some noise on their final chance, with Glass connecting on their second 17-yard pass play of the game. But, again, the Greene County defense would stand, with Blakely picking off Glass to seal the Wildcats’ win.
“We had our chances, but we couldn’t convert them,” Capers said.
Both Greene County and Vancleave scored on their second possession of the game.
The Wildcats scored first, driving the ball down the field on an 11-play, 80-yard drive. During the drive, Walker converted a fourth-and-one for the Greene County 29 and Derrick Grice hit on passes of 17 yards to Kevin Dortch and 22 yards to Creech, which was followed by a personal foul call on Vancleave. Grice completed the drive, sneaking in from the 1 with 2:10 left in the quarter.
Daniel Zehner converted the point-after play, which proved to be the winning points.
“The kicking game has been really critical for us,” King said. “Kicking is big on tight games like tonight.”
C.J. Johnson responded with a 59-yard kickoff return to set the Bulldogs up at the Wildcats 32. Seven plays later, Glass followed his center across the goal line to bring the Bulldogs to within one. After an offsides penalty on Greene County, Capers decided to go for two. However, the snap was high and holder Jimmy Bates was ruled down just outside the goal line.
“Our strength is in the offensive line and I thought we could make one-and-a-half yards,” Capers said. “The high snap slowed us down. If the snap is good, we probably make that play. The call was that we didn’t make it, so we didn’t make it.”