XENIA — Homecoming night was a happy one for the Xenia football team and fans in attendance.
A tight battle throughout the first three quarters saw the Bucs’ defense turn in a stout performance to wear down Greenville and grab a come from behind 21-14 victory.
“I’m so proud of our team because we never give up,” said Xenia head coach Maurice Harden. “We don’t allow ourselves to become a prisoner of our own circumstance. We are a young football team that’s learning how to win. And we have to learn how to fight through adverse situations and keep banging.”
Greenville’s offense came in gaining the most yards per game at 428 in the Miami Valley League, and the highest rushing average at 330.
The league’s leader rushing Brock Short though was held to 112 yards on 26 carries, with the defense playing like a complete unit and pitching a shutout in the second half on his yardage.
“That just comes back to our conditioning and all the things that we do in preparation throughout the week,” Harden said. “By prepping the right way, we get an opportunity to finish things off at the end.”
While freshman Gavin McManus struggled to get the passing game going, junior Trei’Shaun Sanders put the offense on his back and started grinding out yards late.
Sanders had a season best 143 yards and a touchdown in the game, and the team had a season-high 199 yards on the ground.
“A young [quarterback] struggled early making reads, so we wanted to help him out a little bit by running the football and taking the ball out of his hands a little bit,” Harden said. “Our [offensive line] and Trei did a really good job when we were leaning on them to make things happen in the backfield.”
Trailing by one in the third quarter and after a long catch and run by the Green Wave, a fade pass attempt was intercepted, the fourth of the game, by junior Trent Smith to keep the Bucs close.
A familiar ending to the Bucs next drive occurred though as it stalled out on a failed fourth-down pass as the third quarter ended.
Greenville opened the fourth quarter quickly getting near the redzone, but a sack on fourth-down gave the Bucs life once again and the opening they finally needed.
Sanders went to work on the ground to move his team down the field. He eventually took a pitch to the left side three yards from the endzone, cutting inside when the opening was available to score and pose for the home crowd as he put Xenia in front.
A two-point conversion run by junior Jamell Smith gave the Bucs a 21-14 lead.
Xenia’s defense got a stop on the next drive, but would have to get one after a holding call brought back a fourth-down conversion that would have potentially allowed them to run out the clock with 2:47 to go.
Down the Xenia 16-yard line, senior Connor Miller got a sack which followed by a snap going over the Greenville quarterback’s head. A final heave was broken up at the goal line to finish off the win.
“They’re fighters, they are just fighters,” Harden said. “All we do is go out there every single day and grind. We tell them if we just continue to keep working on the process, results will happen the way that we want them to.”
Xenia improves to 4-1 overall and takes over first place in the Valley Division with a 3-1 record after both Stebbins and Sidney fell. Greenville is now 1-3 in MVL play and 1-4 overall.
Scoreless after a defensive minded first quarter, Greenville got on the board first when Short busted through the middle untouched and juked his way to a 36-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
Following a three-and-out, Xenia got great field position on its first interception when freshman Trimonde Henry nabbed a bobbled pass.
Junior Austin Penewit would bust an outside run from 20 yards and barely stretched the ball over the goalline to tie the game at 7-all.
Greenville’s ensuing drive began poorly after a Xenia sack led to a 3rd-and-19 situation. Junior Tremell Wright would get his hands on a pass attempt and go the distance on a 35-yard pick-six to give Xenia its first lead.
The Bucs later found themselves pinned at the 3-yard line, and a fumble by Sanders led to Short pushing it in for the Green Wave from the same distance out to take the lead back.
Both teams nearly scored in the final two minutes of the first half. Greenville had a TD run on 4th down by Short called back for holding, and Xenia got its third interception on the next play.
The final play of the half by the Bucs went for the endzone to senior Runako Tucker, but Greenville’s Dominick Baker got in position for an interception, sending his team up 14-13 into the break.
Xenia was outgained 170-75 in the first half, but got moving in the second to narrow the gap.
“We stress when we are more process driven tahn result driven, then things will work themselves out,” Harden said. “We’ve just got to keep going. We need to learn and understand that regardless of the situation and regardless of the adversity that we face we have to keep consistent and stay focused on the process.”
Xenia next makes a Thursday night trip to Tippecanoe.