Last year, it didn’t get much better for Rocky Mount linebacker Sherrod Greene.
The South Carolina commit led the Gryphons in tackles with 154 as they earned the school’s first football state championship since 1963 with a 24-21 overtime victory over South Point.
So, when the 2016 season was looming Greene was eager to make sure his hometown didn’t have to wait for another.
However, Greene broke his left hand in early July.
“It was tough,” the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder said after his team knocked off conference rival Southern Nash 27-21 in Bailey on Friday night in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A playoffs. “I’m left-handed, so I was struggling to write, get dressed, all of that.
“And it was very hard having to watch in the summer and those first three games (this season). Seeing how much you could have done had you been in there. You wished you could be out there making plays. But I had to be patient and wait for my time.”
Greene gave notice to the Firebirds, who defeated Rocky Mount 21-10 on Oct. 28, early on that things were not going to be easy.
After a 44-yard run by Nadir Thompson gave Southern Nash the ball deep in Rocky Mount territory, Greene drilled back Zonovan Knight on the next play. Southern Nash scored on the possession, however, the next four drives in the half ended with punts. This included one midway through the second quarter that saw Greene grab Thompson and hurl him to the turf.
“We used that first loss to Southern as motivation,” said Greene who has 69 tackles. “It was revenge for us. We practiced all week. It was the best practices we’ve had all year. We came in with confidence and our heads up.”
Those crushing hits are a signature, but Greene’s work at fullback may be most remembered.
On the next Gryphons drive, with his team up 14-6, Greene lined up in the backfield.
His first run went for just 2 yards. After a 5-yard penalty and a pass for minus-3 yards, it appeared the Firebirds might get the ball back.
However, Greene took the next handoff and bruised his way to a 14-yard gain, bowling over a would-be tackler at the line and then lowering his shoulder as Southern Nash’s Alex Puente got him out of bounds.
On fourth down, Rocky Mount tried to draw Southern offside, but had to call a timeout.
Greene took the ball out of the break and went 9 yards. The next snap saw him gallop 16 yards.
The drive was finished off by tailback B.J. Sanders’ 22-yard touchdown.
Greene rushed for 132 yards and four scores as a junior, but had not attempted a run this season. He had 80 yards on eight attempts on Friday.
Asked about his exploits on offense, Greene smiled.
“I do what I have to do. I do like running the ball a lot and yeah, it’s nice to hit them,” he said. “But the main focus is to not get hit that way. But if you’ve got to, make sure you get the first blow.”
Rocky Mount, the No. 6 seed in the East, will be on the road for the second straight week, traveling to Mideast No. 3 Southern Guilford (11-2).
“We’ve just got to keep moving, keep pushing and fight together,” he said. “If we fight together we’ll be alright.”