RED SPRINGS — Zach Leach separated from a defender and put his hand in the air as Red Springs quarterback Blake Greene rolled to his right.
With a linebacker bearing down from outside the pocket, Greene launched a 40-yard heave on the move toward the back of the end zone that Leach snared just beyond the corner pylon. The side judge delivered the no-catch signal as both players returned to the huddle.
Greene’s most impressive throw of the night was an incompletion two feet out-of-bounds, a play that’s been money all season long for the Three Rivers Conference leaders. Just a smidge off the mark, the Red Devils wanted that one back during a 40-point win over South Robeson last week.
Not that it was needed.
Greene completed 20-of-33 passes for 372 yards and six touchdowns, marking the third time this season he has surpassed the lofty 350-yard, five-touchdown feat.
“When we spread the field, it gives me options,” Greene said. “I’ve got open space to move, whether I want to run or throw. My coaches put me in a great position to succeed. I just do the best when I’m out there.”
When he wasn’t looking for an open window with his arm, Greene made plays with his feet, rushing for 161 yards on 10 carries. His seven-touchdown total upped his tally to 47 this season. An innocent 21-yard slant to Leach for a score midway through the fourth was the junior’s 62nd touchdown pass as a varsity football player.
Sprinkle in the additional 38 trips to the end zone on the ground and Greene now has 100 career touchdowns, the most by a single Robeson County player in more than a decade. He’s been especially lethal in conference play, accounting for 20 touchdowns over the last four games.
“He’s got every reason in the world to be a schmuck so to speak,” Red Springs coach George Coltharp said. “But he’s just a humble kid. He doesn’t like talking about himself too much and genuinely gives credit to his teammates. He’s been surrounded by guys that help him make plays.”
Added Leach: “It’s expected with a leader like Blake. He makes things happen and we get to help.”
It wasn’t supposed to look this easy though following last year’s 42-touchdown, offensive player of the year finish. That was Red Springs' peak, so we thought.
After offensive coordinator Joe Salas bolted to West Bladen for the Vikings' head job, Coltharp was left on his own as far as handling the offense. With a few months to prepare for fulltime play-calling duties, Coltharp decided to unleash one of the area’s most savvy players in a revised scheme aimed at his strengths.
“Blake told me before the season that there was no way he’d score 42 touchdowns this year,” Coltharp said. “He knew last year that most of it was based on athletic ability. But now he truly understands the offense and knows the proper reads. We got three guys (this year) with 30-plus catches. He spreads the wealth.”
With a summer of hype and lofty preseason expectations weighing on their shoulders, Greene and the rest of the Red Devils have delivered and appear to be in line for a top playoff seed. Red Springs has been able to stay relatively healthy with abbreviated practices and light hitting during game week.
Greene hasn’t taken as many hits as he did as a sophomore and rarely reaches double-digit rushing attempts. At this point last season, Greene had 32 more carries behind an average offensive line.
Tailback Jedarian Lesane has assumed the heavy lifting on third-and-short while Coltharp manipulates a handful of two-way threats on jet sweeps.
“Coach C is an aggressive play-caller, but I just think we’ve adjusted in the offense since this is the second year of it,” Greene said. “I feel really comfortable and trust my teammates to get open in their spots. It seems like we’ve been more productive this season.”
Red Springs is on pace to accumulate its highest yardage and first down totals since the Clyde Parrish era (1982-92) and has increased its points per game from 35.3 last season to 38.3.
Untying the proverbial elephant from its back is Red Springs' next goal. With the offense clicking down the stretch, Greene exited Friday’s win over the Mustangs at the six-minute mark with only one item on the agenda — leading Red Springs to its first conference title since 2004.
As a freshman, Greene recalls the difficulties of a team in turmoil with a lame duck coach amidst a 3-8 season. Last fall, a squandered lead and subsequent overtime loss to Fairmont derailed the Red Devils’ shot at what they believed was their Three Rivers championship.
With one game left on the regular season schedule Friday at West Columbus, Red Springs isn’t looking ahead.
“We got to the third round (of the playoffs) last year, but a conference title would’ve made it sweeter,” Greene said. “If we play to our fullest potential Friday night, we will put the school back on the map like it should be.”