South Warren was fresh off a bye week and ready to play again.
Hosting crosstown rival Greenwood in a Class 5A, District 2 matchup, the Spartans got off to an unusual start but quickly regrouped and took care of business in a 37-13 win over the Gators on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
South Warren (4-0 overall, 2-0 Class 5A, District 2) committed an early turnover and put itself in a 7-0 hole but regrouped and built a 23-13 lead at halftime. The Spartans then outscored Greenwood (5-1, 1-1) 14-0 in the second half to come out on top and hand the Gators their first loss of the season.
“I mean, it’s a win,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “That’s what I’ll say about that. I was really kind of disappointed in our performance. I thought we were taking steps forward each week and then tonight it seemed like we took a few steps backwards. Just so many self-inflicted wounds.”
The Spartans will look to remain unbeaten next Friday as they host Christian County in a 5A, District 2 contest, while Greenwood will try to bounce back on the road at district rival Bowling Green. Both game are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.
Greenwood wasted no time getting going.
The Gators, on South Warren’s first offensive play of the game, recorded an interception by Lofton Howard and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to quickly take a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds in.
“Just didn’t come out fast at all. Just dug ourselves in a hole,” Smith said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Greenwood — they’re a great team and were undefeated coming in here — but just looking at us personally, I thought we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to fix.”
The Spartans responded at the 6:33 mark of the first quarter, using quarterback Caden Veltkamp’s 9-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eldar Dervisevic — followed up with a successful 2-point conversion pass from Veltkamp to wideout Mason Willingham — to jump in front 8-7.
South Warren struck again just over four minutes later with a 16-yard TD strike from Veltkamp to Willingham. The Spartans again went for two after the scoring play, and Veltkamp connected with receiver — and Ohio State commit — Jantzen Dunn to push the Spartans’ lead to 16-7 entering the second.
Greenwood answered with just over a minute left in the quarter as Howard stepped in at quarterback and connected with running back Sebastian Cowell for a 19-yard TD pass to bring the Gators within 16-13.
“I thought our kids fought — they played hard,” Greenwood coach William Howard said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
However, following Greenwood’s score, South Warren put together a quick, consistent series and capped it with Veltkamp’s 12-yard TD pass to Dunn just before the buzzer to send the Spartans into the break up 23-13.
Veltkamp was 11-for-20 passing for 147 yards through two quarters, while Dunn had made three receptions for 48 yards.
Veltkamp finished 18-for-31 for 222 yards to lead the way for the Spartans.
South Warren extended its advantage on its first drive of the second half as running back Kobe Martin made his way into the end zone from four yards out. Martin’s score came after an 8-yard pass from Veltkamp to Willingham and made it 30-13 at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter.
Martin took a handoff from Veltkamp, took off, juked a defender and sprinted untouched into the end zone to cap a 25-yard TD run and stretch the Spartans’ lead to 37-13 — and that sealed it with 7:36 still left on the clock.