A summer of 7-on-7 workouts and one highly-controlled preseason scrimmage was not enough to properly prepare Shelbyville for a humid night at J.M. McKeand Stadium.
But the Golden Bears made enough plays to secure their fourth-straight season-opening win over visiting Greensburg.
John Lux threw two touchdowns and Cooper Lewis returned a fumble 60 yards to help Class 4A, No. 15-ranked Shelbyville start its season with a 21-6 victory.
“It was very hot and humid out there,” said Pat Parks, who kicked off his 22nd season as the Golden Bears head coach. “We’ve been dealing with it these past three weeks but that was tough on both teams. It was tough on everybody. We had to get through the mental part of that. When you get tired, you still have to be able to go.”
Depth is not a luxury the Golden Bears have in 2016. So shuffling players in and out is tricky. And it became a little tougher when starting offensive and defensive lineman Nick Brokering went down with an ankle injury early in the second quarter. The junior tried to return to the game but again limped off and did not see action in the second half.
“He probably has a high ankle sprain so we will have to watch it this week and see how it goes,” said Parks. “Victor Kreinhop and Anthony Wisker stepped up big time. They had to take his place and play on both sides of the ball. I was proud of the way those two stepped up.”
Shelbyville’s offense looked sluggish in the first half. Its first three possessions ended with two punts and an interception. But it has quick-strike capability and that came to light on the fourth series.
Lux, already the program’s career passing yards leader, connected with Jalaen Ramsey for a 20-yard gain that moved the ball to near midfield. A holding penalty followed which pushed the line of scrimmage back to the Shelbyville 30.
Lux immediately went back to Ramsey for a short pass that the 6-foot-3 speedster took to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Greensburg ventured into the red zone for the second time on its next possession and again came away with no points. That proved to be a big story line in the game.
“I felt like that last week a little bit with Rushville in the scrimmage where we gave up some plays early. That happens because you’re not really scouted at all. Last week, we did a nice job of rising to the occasion when they got down there. And tonight we did the same thing,” said Parks.
Fullback Jesse Hunter fumbled near the Shelbyville 15 and Damon Lux recovered.
After a 3-and-out possession for Shelbyville, Greensburg tried to get tricky with 23 seconds to go in the first half.
Greensburg quarterback Taylon Hogg converted a quick pass to a receiver near the Shelbyville 35. The receiver then lateraled to running back who failed to secure the ball. A perfect bounce off the McKeand Stadium turf put it into Lewis’ hands and he raced to the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
“Cooper was very solid at times and there were times he wasn’t quite in the right spot but there he was “Johnny-on-the-spot” to pick up that fumble,” said Parks. “That touchdown before the half was huge.”
Greensburg’s adjustment coming out of halftime was putting senior Sam Slusher at quarterback. Using a no-huddle offense, Slusher put the Pirates in overdrive and they raced 74 yards in seven plays to get on the scoreboard. The extra-point kick was no good but Greensburg was back in the game.
“It didn’t catch us off guard. We prepared for that double tight (look),” said Parks. “We’re just not very big up front and they put the big boys in there. We just weren’t ready for the physicality right away.”
Shelbyville had no answer on its next three possessions but the Pirates couldn’t score either.
A 54-yard punt by Shelbyville’s Logan Young finally turned the tide. That pinned the Pirates at their goalline and the defense held to force a punt that Damon Lux fielded near the 35.
Three plays later, John Lux hit Dalton Fuchs for a 6-yard scoring strike and a 15-point lead.
“That allowed us to breathe a little easier,” said Parks.
Greensburg’s next series ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down inside the Shelbyville 20. It was one of four drives in the game where the Pirates entered the red zone and failed to score.
With the graduation of kicker Ty Johnson, a North-South All Star Classic selection after a terrific senior season, a replacement, or two, needed to be found.
Logan Young and Tim Clark filled that void admirably against Greensburg.
Young had a punt blocked early in the third quarter but recovered to deliver a 54-yard field-flipping boot that ultimately set up the Golden Bears’ final TD.
Clark was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra-point attempts with soaring kicks. And his directional kickoffs were outstanding in part to great coverage.
The student section went with a construction theme for the opener to celebrate the completion of the new lockerroom facility directly behind the main grandstand at McKeand Stadium.
And when the game was over, the orange- and yellow-clad students joined the football team on the field for a huge celebratory cheer.
Greensburg fumbled seven times in the loss, losing four. Two first-half turnovers came inside the Shelbyville 20. Another came on a Nolan Ray vicious tackle of Greensburg running back Joey Woods late in the third quarter.
John Lux’s only interception of the game came on a deep throw downfield that Ramsey touched but deflected up and to a Greensburg defender.
Shelbyville closes out its non-conference schedule with a trip to Franklin for a 7 p.m. game. The Grizzly Cubs trailed Columbus North at halftime Friday 10-0 before falling away and losing 52-7. Franklin leads the all-time series with Shelbyville 43-28-2.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.