Greencastle shut out Monrovia's Bulldogs for three quarters and gave up just one first down and 37 yards of total offense in the second half of the 21-7 West Central Conference win
"We made some adjustments defensively the second half and it paid off. Changing the alignment of our defensive end, funneling (the play) back inside and changing our safety splits, so it paid off for us," Greencastle coach Josh Buis said.
Playing on the field where the 2012 Super Bowl was played and winning the season opener capped a day the Tiger Cubs and the large crowd of Greencastle fans will remember for a good while.
"I had a blast out there. Watching the Super Bowl (on TV) last year, then coming out here, 'Wow this is legit, we're playing.' It was a lot of fun," Greencastle quarterback Nick Gilliam said.
Gilliam attributed some of Greencastle's first half struggles on offense to nervousness. The Tiger Cubs had the ball three times in the first half, resulting in one turnover, one three-and-out series and one touchdown -- a three-yard score by Nate Christy.
"We got a lot of calls wrong. We have a lot of young guys on this team, especially our line. We have one senior on the line, so these young kids, they were nervous, I could tell that. The second half they got all those nerves out and we came out firing," Gilliam said.
Greencastle turned the ball over three times and Monrovia took a 7-0 lead on the first of those turnovers. Gilliam fumbled when he was hit just before releasing a pass and Monrovia recovered the loose ball. The Bulldogs' 200-pound Nick Fairfield capped a 15-play drive with a two-yard score.
"I still say the strength of our team is our offense. We didn't move the ball very well today, but Monrovia is pretty good defensively. That should be one of the best defenses we see this year. Don't get me wrong, we got a pretty good defense. The defense played extremely hard," Buis said.
Greencastle's defense came up with three Monrovia turnovers in the second half and the Tiger Cubs converted two into touchdowns.
Linebacker Carter Lewis recovered two Monrovia turnovers, one in the third quarter resulting in a 34-yard field goal that fell short, and the second that started Greencastle's go-ahead touchdown drive.
Lewis recovered the Monrovia fumble at the Bulldogs' 21-yard line. Seven plays and two first downs later, Gilliam put the Tiger Cubs ahead with a quarterback sneak into the North end zone of Lucas Oil Stadium.
On the two-point conversion, Gilliam scrambled right to buy time until sophomore Tanner Nicholson got open in the front corner of the end zone to give Greencastle a 14-7 lead.
Greencastle's Mac Shuee and Christy ended any thought of a Monrovia comeback on play that will be remembered in the lore of the Greencastle-Monrovia rivalry.
Greencastle's Shuee delivered a bone-jarring hit as Monrovia's Austin Benjamin attempted to catch a pass. The ball fell to the turf and some players let up thinking it was an incomplete pass, but no whistle sounded and an alert Christy scooped up the ball and ran it 30-yards for a touchdown that sealed the victory.
The Lucas Oil Stadium replay on the video screens clearly showed the play to be an incomplete pass. But IHSAA rules do not allow officials to use instant replay for regular-season games. While everyone in the stadium could see the missed play, the official could not use it.
Christy, who scored the Tiger Cubs' first touchdown of the season on a three-yard run with 3:39 left in the second quarter, led all ball carriers with 84 yards on 18 attempts. But, the 30-yard fumble return will be the play most remembered.
Greencastle returns to action on Friday night at West Vigo High School.
At Lucas Oil Stadium
Greencastle 21, Monrovia 7
Monrovia 7 0 0 0 -- 7
Greencastle 0 6 0 14 -- 21
M -- Nick Fairfield 1 run (Sean McCloud kick), 7-0, 1:59.
G -- Nate Christy 3 run (kick failed), 7-6, 3:39.
G -- Nick Gilliam 1 run (Tanner Nicholson from Gilliam) 14-7, 6:59.
G -- Christy 30 fumble return (Sedrick Weinschenk kick) 21-7, 4:36.
First downs 9 7
Rushes-yards 49-139 29-113
Passing yards 11 36
Comp-Att-Int 2-7-0 4-9-0
Total offense 56-150 38-149
Return yards 50 57
Punts-Avg. 3-25.3 2-38.0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-2
Penalties-yards 3-30 2-20
Rushing -- Monrovia: Benjamin 9-43, Ellis 9-31, Fairfield 10-19, Judson 8-11, Bucks 6-25, Bower 2-7, Fields 2-7, Hale 3-(-4). Greencastle: Christy 18-84, Gilliam 9-26, Pettit 2-3.
Passing -- Monrovia: Judson 1-4-0--6; Hale 1-4-0--5. Greencastle: Gilliam 4-9-0--36.
Receiving -- Monrovia: Benjamin 2-11. Greencastle: Brown 1-28, Shuee 1-7, Alspaugh 1-2, Christy 1-(-1).
Next game -- Greencastle (1-0, 1-0 in WCC) travels to West Vigo (0-1), while Monrovia (1-0, 0-1 in WCC) plays Cascade (0-1). ).