CERRO GORDO — Cerro Gordo-Bement running back Brady Greenwood learned a lesson in Week 1.
His team took an 8-6 lead into halftime against Warrensburg-Latham and ended up losing 20-15.
"We learned from Warrensburg that in playing defense, you can’t take plays off," Greenwood said. "We didn’t lose confidence after that. We knew we should have beaten them the whole time. We just gave up too many good plays. I think we should be 3-0."
The Broncos (2-1) bounced back in Week 2, handling Shelbyville 45-22 and getting the attention of people who haven't taken CGB football seriously in a while. They're hoping to continue that momentum in Week 4 as they start Little Okaw Valley Northwest play against LSA (2-1).
"(Shelbyville) has that reputation that they are a tough team and that they have a good tradition and culture," said CGB coach Nick Walker, in his second year coaching the Broncos. "To get that win, I think that is the win that I’m most proud of over the last two years with these kids. I think that was a game that I think not many people expected us to win."
The Broncos' confidence level also picked up steam.
"(The Shelbyville win) helped a lot," Greenwood said. "That victory taught us we knew we could do whatever we wanted if we were playing right."
While football programs across Illinois are losing players, Cerro Gordo's has seen substantial growth in a short period.
"We’ve got 45 to 50 kids out right now," Walker said. "I think when I was an assistant the most we had was 26. We’ve almost doubled our numbers and it is awesome being able to have that many kids."
Part of the new-found success is the atmosphere Walker brings to the team.
"Coach Walker is an amazing coach — hands down the best coach I have ever had," senior quarterback Ethan Mann said. "He has completely changed our pre-game traditions, our Thursday night meals. It seems like we are not just a team anymore. We have an actual bond. It’s pretty cool and helps us out."
Greenwood and running back John Conner, both seniors, lead the Broncos' running attack in an unselfish partnership that defers to whoever has the hot hand.
Conner racked up 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and 121 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. It was Greenwood's time to shine in Week 3 against Oblong-Palestine-Hutsonville — he scampered for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
"I’m more of the short distance back and John is the fast one," Greenwood said. "I don’t know if (John) has ever run a 40 (yard dash) but I’m guessing he’s 4.4 or sub 4.4.
"I like being the power back. I don’t care about sharing the ball, I just want to win. The team victory is what is important."
Mann will be handing off to the two-headed Broncos running attack and doesn't envy the job the opposing defense has.
"It is fast and strong. John’s faster but Brady’s stronger," Mann said. "I don’t want to have them run downhill at me that’s for sure. I’m glad they are on my team."
Greenwood sets a strong example for the team through his actions.
"Brady is a very lead-by-example kind of guy," Mann said. "He can get quiet and some of the stuff he does is amazing. But then we have other players like (safety) Matthew Guffey, (right guard) Dylan Upton, and (center) Carter Davenport, they lead with their voices. We have a bunch of leaders."
CGB's good start will be tested against LSA — a co-op between LSA, Decatur Christian and Mount Pulaski. The Lions beat the Broncos 37-6 in Cerro Gordo last year.
"They’ve got athletes and the one thing that I will say is I respect (LSA head coach) Craig Bundy tremendously," Walker said. "Last year they came in here and kind embarrassed us and I think they only had about 23 kids. He gets them ready and that’s what we are trying to tell our boys: ‘You’ve got to be ready to go this week.’"
The Broncos will be focused on Lions quarterback Michael Fiala and a trio of wide receivers in Grant Karsten, Jalen Jones, and Garrett Skelton.
A Week 4 win would bring Cerro Gordo closer to a trip to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season.
"It is very important," Mann said. "The overall team takes it one game at a time, at least I do. But I know we are going to make it and I hope we make a run. I don’t want to go just one game in."
Taking that next step into the postseason has been a team goal this season, especially for seniors.
"It’s a must be," Greenwood said. "My senior year I’ve got to go to the playoffs. That’s the main goal and then making a run in the playoffs."