Though he’s displayed a knack for making big plays over the past two seasons, some of Noah Compton’s most significant contributions to Greenwood’s football success go completely unnoticed.
As the punt returner for the Woodmen, Compton has totaled just 66 yards on 29 returns since the start of the 2016 season — but Greenwood head coach Mike Campbell is always taking note of the yardage that the senior cornerback saves by fielding nearly every punt that comes his way rather than letting the unreturnable ones roll.
“I think one of the biggest attributes he has is he will go catch the football,” Campbell said. “We tell our kids a fair catch is a good catch. We always would like to see a return, but regardless, we want to catch the ball in the air because that’s hidden yardage.”
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Compton earns plenty of recognition in his other roles for the Woodmen, who will be trying to reach their first-ever state championship game when they travel to East Central for a Class 4A semistate clash tonight.
The senior has displayed a knack for the moment on defense, where he has intercepted three passes this season and knocked down several others while routinely covering the opponent’s top receiver.
The All-Mid-State Conference performer acknowledges that he’s got a penchant for making big plays, but he won’t take all of the credit for his exploits on defense, where he’s collected 37 tackles this season, or on special teams.
“I wouldn’t be in those spots at all if it wasn’t for coach (Rick) Guipe and coach (Jerrod) Watson, the defensive coaches, to help me get in those spots on defense,” Compton said, “and just following my wedge on kick returns or following my blockers on punt returns, I wouldn’t be able to have those big plays.”
One of Compton’s biggest plays this season wound up not counting. With his team having just gone down by two scores in a Week 5 game at Plainfield, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder ran a kickoff back for an apparent touchdown — but a penalty wiped it out.
“That was rough,” Compton said of losing what would have been his first varsity score.
He’s got at least one more opportunity to find the end zone tonight, and doing so would go a long way toward helping the Woodmen secure what would almost certainly be the greatest athletics victory the school has ever seen. Compton and his teammates are aware of the stakes, but they’re doing their best to treat this like a normal Friday night.
“It’s definitely hard to look past the fact that we could make history,” Compton said, “but we have to treat this as if it’s just another game. We’ve got to go out and do our job and read our keys and just make plays.”
That’s something he’s been pretty good at.
Class 4A semistate
Greenwood (11-2) at East Central (10-3)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.