North Delta Green Wave
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Wave comes from behind to win district championship
By Angie Ledbetter
After losing the lead, the North Delta Green Wave had to stage a 19-14 comeback win over West Memphis Friday night to take the district championship.
Hundreds of North Delta fans took to the wet, road ways, dressed and prepared for the rainy night ahead to support the Green Wave in their bid for a district championship.
The Green Wave last won a football district championship in 2004 when they went undefeated in the regular season and won the 1-AA district championship.
This was one of the biggest battles the Green Wave had to fight this season. It was drizzling raining during the game and the field was very soggy and under water.
“I am just excited for those 32 young men in that locker room and those other two coaches,” Green Wave head coach Richard Russo said, “They deserve it. The amount of hours of blood, sweat and tears that they put in to the program, I just feel like we work harder than most everybody else. We have been scratching and clawing all year to win, from overcoming injuries, overcoming bad calls by the officials, to overcoming our own personal mistakes.
“I told the boys after the game they were going to be okay because they have had to scratch and claw, and that’s most of the battles in life,” Russo continued. “The wet field equalized a lot of things. You can’t turn ball over like we did tonight and hope to have a great football outcome no matter who you play.”
This was a must win game in order for the Green Wave to get in the playoffs without sitting and hoping for a wildcard spot like last year.
Thanks to a team and coaching staff that believed and never gave up, the Green Wave fans do not have to sit back and wait to hear about a wild card place. They went into this game in a critical situation, being in second place behind Desoto in their district, but all of that was moot with the win.
The Green Wave started the game with Britt Lawrence kicking off to the Black Knights. After a Black Knight punt, the Green Wave took over on the 42 yard line of the Black Knights. The Green Wave had fourth down from the six yard line.
A Black Knights penalty moved the Green Wave to the three yard line, still with a fourth down.
Quarterback J.T. Dalrymple scored on a three-yard run with with 4:37 on the clock. With the PAT, the Green Wave led 7-0.
The Black Knights came back in the second quarter with 10:01 on the clock and scored their first touchdown on quarterback Preston Pugh’s three-yard run. The two point conversion was negated on a motion penalty. West Memphis had to try to convert the eight yard line and the pass was incomplete and the Green Wave had a 7-6 lead.
The Green Wave scored again before halftime on a Bateman Greenlee one-yard run with 29 seconds left in the half. The score stood 13-6 at halftime after the two point conversion failed.
Neither team scored in the third quarter as it was a defensive battle. The field was cut up by the player’s cleats. Players found it hard to run and pass due to the misting rain. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped.
With 11:11 on the clock, the Black Knights took the lead when Tucker Bankston picked up a Green Wave fumble and took it 78 yards to score. The PAT by James Chong was good to give the Black Knights a 14-13 lead.
With 2:30 left in the game, Bateman Greenlee made the winning touchdown for the Green Wave. He scored on a two-yard run but the two point conversion failed.
The Green Wave went up 19-14 and held that score to the clock ran out. It was a fight to the end. As the offense had to fight the mud, the Green Wave defense had to step up big and hold the Black Knights.
It was an emotional scene after the clock expired. Players were hugging, coaches were hugging, and players were shedding tears with parents and grandparents.
Head Green Wave Coach Richard Russo told the team after the game they kept finding a way to win.
“That marks that you have character and you are going to scratch and claw your entire life,” he said. “You’re going to be successful with whatever you do. I am so proud of you. Keep finding a way to win. It is an awesome day for all of you.”
JT Dalrymple said he had trouble hanging on to the ball a little bit.
“It was tough,” he said. “It felt pretty bad when West Memphis went ahead. They capitalized on my fumble so that felt really bad. The coaching staff did a good job with us. They got us here and we did the work on the field. It felt great to win. I have never felt like this before. I am a senior and it’s my last time to do something like this.”
Don Phelps agreed the win felt good and was very emotional.
“I’ve been with J.T. all my life,” Phelps said. “When we won the game, we went wild. We got scared there for a second but we prevailed and came back and won it. West Memphis came out swinging. I was very surprised at how good they played. They came out and showed us something. They gave us a run for our money. Coach Russo kept telling us not to give up and this is our district championship. He told us to not let them take it away from us. The coaches kept us motivated.”
Michael Johnson said at first, they went out pounding the ball in the first half and it worked.
“In the second half, we tried to give them a new look and they tried to throw the ball to me,” Johnson said. “Well, I dropped it and they tried it again. I dropped it again. I was so aggravated when I dropped it the first time and the second time. The ball was wet and the field was wet. I made sure that I caught it the next time. That was a big play.
“It feels good to be a part of a championship team,” Johnson added. “The coaches didn’t give up on me. I respect them for that. I tried not to hear my daddy on the side line but I did. You can’t help but hear him. He kept telling me to hit somebody. My mom got to scream one time tonight when I caught that pass. I also heard her scream when JT had that awesome punt. That was what really picked us up then.”
Senior Josh Garrott said as a senior he always wants the best for his team and being able to help them get the district championship can help them use this motivation in the years to come.
“It really means a lot to all of us,” Garrott said. “I have high hopes and I am going to go in with everything that I have. I want to finish the season strong. Hopefully we will end up at state. We will play our best there as well.”
Andy Barns knew West Memphis going to be after them being in last place in the district.
“I was part of a championship team in seventh grade but that was junior high,” he said. “This felt awesome.”
Seth Barnett said, this is what the team has worked for since the beginning of summer workouts.
John Paul Keel said, “It felt great to be part of a championship team. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Adversity is what the Green Wave had to overcome, according to Greenlee.
“We had some really costly turnovers that almost cost us the game but we were able to pull it out,” he said. “It was one of those games where I felt like we had control over it the whole time but the score didn’t show it.”
Assistant coach Lance Thomas said, “It felt good to be district junior high champions and now varsity district champions.”
Assistant coach Brad Wilson agreed.
“We told them up front that it was going to be a battle,” Wilson said. “We knew that West Memphis was not going to lay down for us. Our boys took coaching. It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. When you have turf that is that soggy and wet, it definitely makes a difference in the ball game and it did tonight. We were very lucky to have come out on top”
Wilson praised the defense in the second half saying it played exceptionally well.
“We made a few adjustments at halftime,” Wilson continued. “West Memphis came out fighting real hard so you have to give them some credit. I definitely know that this team has the potential to go to the state championship game.”
Russo said the team must eliminate costly turnovers.
“They continue to make it hard for us to close out games,” Russo said. “We must be more mentally tough when possessing the football.”
The team and coaching staff had to overcome so much to reach this point, Russo said.
“We have had a judge alter our pre-season camp,” Russo said.
“We have had some serious injuries to key players and positions. We have had a different lineup out there just about every week. We have had some outside negativity, and we have had to overcome our own in-game mistakes.
“We have all overcome these as a family and have come out as District 1A Champions,” Russo continued.
“It has been a two-year process of our boys, our coaches, our staff, our administration, and our parents buying into the program. I believe our players, Coach Thomas, and Coach Wilson put in a lot of hard work and time that is paying tremendous dividends. I am proud for everyone that is involved.”
Defensive leaders are Blane Joyner – 13 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 1 Pass Breakup;
Josh Garrott – 12 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 2 Pass Breakups, 1 Interception;
Britt Lawrence – 9 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss;
John Paul Keel – 9 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss;
Bateman Greenlee – 8 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss;
Hunter West – 6 Total Tackles, 5 Tackles for Loss;
Don Phelps – 4 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss;
Dalrymple added his seventh interception of the season. Dalrymple had three punts for a 34.33 yards per punt avg.
Seth Barnett added a fumble recovery.
Offensive leaders are
Dalrymple – 28 rushes for 165 yards and 1 TD;
Greenlee – three rushes for six yards and two touchdowns;
Hunter West – 5 rushes for 36 yards;
Greenlee – 1 for 6 passing for 18 yards;
Michael Johnson – 18 yards receiving.
The Green Wave team as the district 1A champion will take on the No. 2 team from district 3A which most likely is Hebron Christian.
That game will be played on Friday, November 9 at North Delta at 7 p.m. More details will be announced after the regular season concludes Friday.