For a brief moment early in the second quarter, it felt as though Kuemper could flip the momentum and make a run at a substantial upset.
Fourth-ranked Greene County and star quarterback Brent Riley would have nothing of it, proving they belong among the class 2A elite.
The senior signal-caller threw for 302 yards and four first half touchdowns en route to a 388 yard, five touchdown day as the Rams blew past Kuemper, 45-22 Friday night win Jefferson. As a team, undefeated Greene County sliced up the KHS defense for 578 yards and six touchdowns. The offense quickly became too much to handle for the Kuemper defense.
The week six battle was a tale of two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.
The victory was Greene County’s sixth-straight, preserving an undefeated start while Kuemper’s frustrating loss was the Knights fifth straight after starting the year with an opening night triumph over St. Albert. Greene County has won nine straight regular season games since falling to these same KHS Knights last fall, 16-8 on Sept. 28.
Greene County led 28-6 at the break on Oct. 4, closing the half on a 14-0 run (including a 20-yard score with 45 seconds left) after Kuemper scored its first points of the night, pulling within eight points. The Rams stifled KHS early in the contest, lunging out to a 14-0 lead before a long Knight drive put the road team on the board, a short plunge from quarterback Cole Collison. That brief one-score margin early was as close as the Knights would get for the remainder of the contest.
It wasn’t necessarily a poor performance on Kuemper’s part, Greene County just took advantage of its opportunities and flexed their talent.
“Every time we ended up with a nice play, we either lost the ball or (Greene County) would score. Kind of the story of our season,” Kuemper head coach Chad Klein said. “Every time we take a step forward, we take a step back. All of a sudden we make a big play then now we fumble, a penalty. Things like that. It’s very frustrating. I feel for the kids. They are working hard, we just have to find a way to put it all together.”
KHS never could quite slow the Greene County offensive attack (which is now ranked third in 2A at 44ppg and fourth in total yards, 2,427) that scored 24 unanswered, nor could they match the firepower of their opponents. The Knights rarely had an answer for one of class 2A’s higher scoring offenses.
Following Kuemper’s only first half score, the Rams would go on to score three consecutive back-breaking touchdowns over the next two-and-a half quarters, grabbing an insurmountable 38-6 lead early in the fourth.
Riley (19 touchdowns this season against just three picks) was at his best, dropping passes over the Kuemper defense and finding open receivers who cracked the KHS secondary. He was spelled by 2A’s top running back in Colby Kafer (966 yards, 10 touchdowns), who’s pure speed and shiftiness produced 161 rushing yards and a touchdown. Greene County wide receiver Carter Morton was also a nightmare to contain, hauling in eight passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams have won their last four games each by at least 20 points. They’ve only played one opponent that has stayed within 10 points - Nevada (42-41) back in week two.
Kuemper’s final two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, with the game all but out of reach. It was a telling sign for coach Klein, as he experienced the desire of his KHS squad even down more than 30 points.
“I always know our kids have heart. There’s never been a question in my mind,” the coach said. “We have to look at how we do things and we have to make ourselves better as a team. The season’s not over.”
The Knights must find a way to quickly right the ship, as they are now 1-5 overall and 0-2 in Class 2A, District 9 play, sitting at the bottom of the standings along with Red Oak, who they host this coming Friday. KHS has lost by at least 20 points In four of their five losses. With three games remaining, there’s still time to salvage a respectable campaign, even if a winning record is no longer possible. Week seven is not when the Knights can afford to fold it in, Klein said. There are still many teaching moments left and plenty of room for improvement.
“At this point in their careers and as a coach, I’ve spent a lot of time building those personal relationships. Hopefully they know I won’t give up on them and they’ll reciprocate that and they won’t give up on us as coaches,” the coach said. “We go back to work now. I told them last week, there are times in your life that you’re going to beat your head against the wall, day in and day out. You have have to just keep doing it and eventually you will break through.”
Red Oak (0-6, 0-2) has lost nine straight games dating back to October of last year. The Knights defeated the Tigers, 23-7 on the road a year ago.
This year’s Red Oak squad is fresh off a 42-0 drubbing at the hands of Shenandoah. Their last three losses (to Treynor, OA-BCIG and Shenandoah) have come by a combined score of 164-7. If there was ever a week for a bounce back victory, Kuemper’s Oct. 11 home tilt may be it.
“It’s not a time to ever quit,” Klein said. “That’s one lesson they will hear during this streak. Don’t ever quit and just keep going.”