09/24/06 — James Kenan 'D' stuffs Greene Central

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James Kenan 'D' stuffs Greene Central

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 24, 2006 2:15 AM

WARSAW -- Greene Central coach Jim Bob Bryant wanted to see his team creep within striking distance in the fourth quarter against James Kenan on Friday evening.

For one minute, Bryant got his wish.

Then his desire turned into an unwelcomed ache.

Two Tiger defenders crushed sure-handed Rams running back Tyrell Lane and forced a fumble inside the visitors' 30-yard line. Senior defensive back Jamian Smith scooped up the fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to seal James Kenan's 21-8 victory at Bill Taylor Field.

It was the Rams' fifth of six uncharacteristic turnovers in a matchup between two unbeaten and state-ranked teams. The Tigers improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1995 and denied Greene Central (4-1) its best-ever start in its 45-year history.

"We talked all week about turnovers," said Bryant. "We've been a team that hasn't been turning the ball over much and tonight (six turnovers) is not indicative of how we need to play football.

"We're just not as disciplined as we need to be right now and we're going to work on that next week."

The teams entered the contest with identical plus-five ratings in turnover margin. The Tigers exited with a plus-four advantage after yielding a first-half interception and fourth-quarter fumble of their own.

James Kenan's defense picked off four Cam Shelton passes and held an opponent to just one touchdown for the fourth time this season. It was the Greene Central's lowest offensive output since its 26-0, second-round playoff loss against Burlington Cummings last November.

"We tried to mix it up defensively a little bit, but the guys felt comfortable in our base stuff," said Tigers defensive coordinator John Bert Avent. "We were able to get in the way of some passes, get some tips and we were flying around to the ball (well).

"They've got a great (offensive) scheme and we expected to give up some plays on defense, but I thought we did a great job all around."

Bryant lamented penalties and loss yardage limited his play calling at times. The Rams converted 5 of 10 third-down plays on seven possessions, but the mental and physical mistakes took their toll.

"The defense was able to lay their ears back, come after the quarterback and stay back in coverage to cover any deep passes," said Bryant. "(James Kenan) did a good job, but we should have been hitting our short routes. For whatever reason, we didn't hit them when we needed to hit them tonight."

James Kenan, ranked No. 5 in the latest Associated Press Class 1-A poll, punched in two first-half touchdowns against the Rams. Stedman Mathis capped a 10-play, game-opening drive with a 2-yard run. Alex Monk hooked up with Smith for a 26-yard scoring strike early in the second quarter.

Greene Central had surrendered just one touchdown during the first half of its previous four games.

Shelton directed a flawless nine-play, 61-yard drive after the Tigers' second score. William Brown polished off the four-minute possession with a 3-yard run off right tackle. Shelton's two-point conversion run closed the gap to 15-8.

The score stood until Smith's game-clinching fumble return early in the fourth quarter. Defensive back Duan Alston intercepted Shelton on Greene Central's final possession of the game.

"I'm disappointed in the whole team effort," said Bryant, whose team is ranked No. 9 in the AP 2-A poll. "I can't point a finger at the offense or defense. None of us played well tonight."

The Tigers claimed their fifth consecutive win at home.