Greenbrier embraces team mentality

A sense of brotherhood on Greenbrier’s defense has taken hold throughout the team.

 

John Waters feels it during practices, when his defense gathers to eat on Thursday nights, leading up to kickoff on Fridays, and on the field. A culture is being built at Greenbrier and it’s starting to show in the results.

“Everybody loves to be winning, of course, but our culture and how much we’ve changed the past few years, it’s a big difference the way we go into Friday nights now as a team unified,” said Waters, a senior leader who contributes at running back, linebacker and kicker. “Everybody wants to play together and everybody wants to play their heart out for each other.”

Greenbrier will take its field against Richmond Academy tonight at 7:30 as a 3-0 team for the second consecutive season. The Wolfpack started 5-0 last year before dropping their next four, but three of those losses were by a touchdown each, showing how close they were to their first playoff appearance since 2003.

They still managed their first winning record since that season in coach Tony Kramer’s second year.

“It’s always good to see results,” star junior running back J.Q. Brown said. “We work hard day in and day out, so it’s always good to get that reward at the end of the day.”

The formula is centered on the success of Brown and the defense. Brown is producing at one of the highest clips in the state so far, totaling 445 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns through three games. He’s on pace to blow past his totals as a sophomore last year when he rushed for 1,067 yards, and he’s already past his nine touchdowns from that season.

Greenbrier’s defense has been the unsung catalyst.

The group gave up 14 or fewer points in eight games last year, and its points-allowed total in 2016 was the second-fewest in school history. This year’s defense is keeping the dominance alive by allowing just 15 points in three contests.

“One thing for sure, everybody on the defense is like brothers,” Waters said. “I know all my boys on my defense. They got my back just like I got theirs. It’s great to play like that.”

Kramer is keeping a steady head through the early-season success with the reminder of last season’s hot start. He said he reminds his players they’re playing to win October – a region slate that includes Lakeside, Heritage, Evans and Grovetown.

He also reminds his players to take each week as it comes. He sees a new sense of maturity from his players as he further establishes his influence on the program.

“The mentality of the kids, they know that they’re going to be competitive every Friday night, to get in there and have the opportunity to win if we do the right things,” Kramer said. “We’re excited about where we are, but they can’t get complacent. We talk about not being satisfied and working and grinding to get better every day.”

Greenbrier’s team mentality is also showing in other ways. The Wolfpack are participating in Touchdowns Against Cancer, a nationwide program aimed at unifying schools to help defeat childhood cancer.

In support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, every touchdown scored by a participating team between Sept. 14-30 will directly benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Each team launches a pledge campaign allowing fans to pledge a donation for every touchdown scored.

Greenbrier is joining Grovetown and Strom Thurmond as area schools participating. The program has special meaning for the Wolfpack, whose players dedicate their games to classmate Tanner Haywood, a former player fighting a rare bone cancer.

“I know I play for him every Friday, but this special opportunity is something I can’t explain,” Waters said. “I think it’s a great opportunity not just for us, but everybody in the nation to come together as one and try to defeat cancer.”

 

Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or david.lee@augustachronicle.com.

 

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