For the first time in Greenville College history, the Greenville football program is undefeated with 9 wins and 0 losses! With one game left, the Panthers will face the reigning UMAC champions, to finish the season. But this past Saturday was a battle, with the Westminster Blue Jays traveling to Greenville with intentions to “derail” this historic season that the Panthers are having. The Blue Jays play with an incredibly physical defense and a mindset to dominate their opponents. It would be yet another challenge for this Greenville Panther Football Team. Ending the first quarter down 7-0 Greenville had their backs once again up against the wall.
Playoffs are just two games away and are in reach for the Greenville College Panthers. As the season comes closer to an end, the temptation of reaching for the playoffs becomes harder and harder each week. With a team like Westminster who plays physically and plays the Panthers tough every year, a playoff berth could easily slip away if the level of focus is lost. Head Coach Robbie Schomaker led his Panther team into week 9 against the Blue Jays and made known the importance of keeping the focus on the “process” of becoming a great team. The season has been a great success according to the win-loss columns thus far, but the Panthers strive to base their success on the everyday process of getting better. The goal is not yet reached and the time has not yet come for the Panthers to celebrate the season’s success. A lack of focus on the “process” could have very easily distracted the Panthers.
A 57-yard punt from Westminster soared through the air early in the 1st quarter as the Panthers Specials Teams unit took their place to execute their blocks in hope of an explosive return. The ball carried in the air and was mishandled by Greenville’s returner. The Blue Jays rushed down the field as the football rolled around on the ground and Greenville tried to recover it. Players from Westminster dove on the ball and under the pile, the Blue Jays came up with the recovery. The fumble gave Westminster possession just 25 yards away from the end zone. Two players later, the Blue Jays would be the first team on the board as they took the early lead with a score of 7-0.
A brotherhood based on the cornerstone of 1 Corinthians 13 description of love, Greenville huddle together and “flushed” all the mistakes that had been happening. Picking players up, encouraging, and seeking to keep a level head against the hard-hitting physicality of the Westminster Blue Jays, Greenville re-took the field with a look of determination in their eyes. The Panther Defense refused to back down and forced Westminster to punt again on their next series of play. Greenville took the ball on their own 24-yard line and came together in the start of the 2nd quarter looking to “close the gap.” Rush, after rush, after rush, the Panthers drove the field setting up an 11-yard pass to Senior Running Back Shawn McKnight for a Greenville Panther touchdown. Sticking to the core of their offense, Greenville responded to Westminster’s hard-hitting defense by “pounding the rock” 13 times on their scoring drive. Josh Frewin kicked in the extra point and Greenville had now tied the game up at 7-7.
This Panther team added another memory to this epic year, as the start of the 3rd quarter began with Greenville kicking the ball to a Westminster Blue Jay returner. The ball soared from the foot of kicker Josh Frewin and the Blue Jay returners fumbled around frantically trying to pick up the ball. Greenville flew down the field and making a huge start to the 2nd half, recovered the football! The Panthers hustle meant the offense would begin the 2nd half with the ball only 5 yards away from the end zone. Running Back Jacob Stull punched in the touchdown for Greenville and the Panthers were now up 14-7. With the Terminator mentality the Panthers have strived to posses all year, the Defense forced Westminster to punt the ball right back to the Offense. Greenville now took the field and in just one play scored another touchdown! Transfer Running Back, Zibeon Washington rushed 89-yards down the far sideline for the score! In less than 5 minutes of play in the 2nd half, Westminster was now down 21-7!
The Panthers made a statement forcing another punt from Westminster on their next drive. Pounding the ball down the field, Greenville scored another touchdown as Quarterback Brendan Chambers threw a 20 yard pass to receiver Nick Newton. For the third consecutive time in the second half, Greenville had scored a touchdown and was now up 28-7.
The 4th and final quarter began and the Greenville College Panther Defense stayed alert and kept the Blue Jays from scoring any more points since the 1st Quarter. Westminster ended their last drive of play as safety Bryce Wright for Greenville intercepted another pass from quarterback Justin Billiot. The Panthers finished the game with two 100+ yard rushers. Running Back Zibeon Washington was the back with the hot hand this week, closing the day with 202 yards on the ground, while fellow Running Back Jacob Stull tallied up 102 yards of his own. As the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read Greenville 28, Westminster 7! Now 9-0, Greenville stepped one game closer to finishing a regular season with a perfect record.
Is the season over yet? Can the Panthers now focus on playoffs and making school history? Next week, the Greenville College Panthers will host the College of St. Scholastica that has a record of 8-1 and is also undefeated in the UMAC Conference. The preparation for this game is already at hand as Greenville will face their hardest opponents thus far. Can Greenville do it? Can the Panthers pull off an undefeated season and finish this year with a victory of the St. Scholastica Saints?