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Photos Below By: Charlie Caster
Photos Below By: Charlie Caster
Bulldogs lose second straight, fall to Panthers 38-31
By Richard White
The Greenwood High School Bulldogs find themselves in a very unusual place, having lost their second consecutive game, falling last Friday night to the Panthers of Siloam Springs, 38-31. It was also the opening game of the 5A West Conference season for the Bulldogs, who lost to the Panthers for the first time since 1994. Greenwood is now 2-2 overall after losing the previous week to the highly regarded Shiloh Christian Saints. Also, until this week the Bulldogs had not suffered back-to-back losses under head coach Rick Jones, now in his seventh season at GHS.
Before a hometown crowd at Glen Black Stadium, the Panthers wasted little time in letting the visiting Bulldogs know they were in for a fight. After Greenwood junior Derek Morgan's opening kick sailed into the end zone, Siloam Springs marched 80 yards in nine plays, taking nearly four minutes off the clock. The drive was well conceived with five rushing plays and four passes, the last of which was for nine yards and the touchdown from quarterback Braden Pippen to Tyler Tucker. The Bulldogs helped out on the drive by committing a facemask penalty, the first of several yellow flags that hurt Greenwood throughout the game.
Trailing 7-0, the Bulldogs got good field position after senior Seth Parker returned the Panthers' kick to the Greenwood 39. But three plays later, senior QB Stephen Hogan was intercepted by the Panthers' Boston Sharp, who returned the pick to the 23-yardline. Running back Grady Truitt ran on first down and didn't get much, but a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the Bulldogs moved the ball to the 11. Two plays later Pippen connected on a 6-yard TD pass to put the Panthers up by two touchdowns with six minutes left in the first quarter.
Starting from their own 20 after the kickoff, Greenwood moved deep into Siloam Springs territory on eight snaps to the 20-yard-line. The biggest play was a 28-yard romp by junior running back Justin Sunde. But fellow junior Adam McFain missed the 37-yard field goal attempt, keeping the score at 14-0. The defense got the ball right back, however, forcing a Siloam Springs' punt that rolled dead at the GHS 36-yard-line with 1:09 remaining in the opening period.
Hogan passed to Sunde on first down for a nice gain to the Panthers' 48-yard-line. Two plays later Hogan kept the ball and got nine yards to the 40, and two plays after that he completed a nine-yard pass to senior receiver Tony Sandifer to the 28-yard-line. Now in the second quarter, the Bulldogs continued what would become their first scoring drive of the contest. Overcoming a holding penalty, Greenwood scored a few plays later on a short run by Hogan from inside the one. McFain's extra point kick cut the Siloam Springs' lead in half at 14-7.
The Bulldogs' defense came up with the big play on the Panthers' next possession, when Blake Hasley intercepted a pass, giving Greenwood the ball at its own 35-yard-line. Sophomore running back Drew Morgan ran for five yards on first down, before Hogan got eight more to the 48 for another first down. Hogan then found Sandifer for a nice completion down the left sideline to the Siloam Springs' 25. Despite a holding penalty that pushed them back to the 35, the Bulldogs would not be deterred in their efforts to tie the score. Hogan ran for 16 yards to the 19, then passed to Drew Morgan down the left sideline and into the end zone. McFain added the extra point to knot the score at 14-all with 6:18 left in the first half.
But the 'Dogs were finished. After another pass interception by the defense, this one by junior Hayden Smith, the GHS offense needed only six plays to score. Starting at his own 49, Hogan got nine yards to the Siloam Springs' 42, then later completed a 19-yard pass to Derek Morgan at the Panthers' 18-yard-line. That set up Justin Sunde for a well-earned touchdown run down the left sideline. The extra point put the Bulldogs up 21-14 and they seemed to have taken command of the game with 21 unanswered points. The Panthers attempted but missed a 36-yard field goal in the final seconds, preserving Greenwood's lead at the half.
But everything changed in the second half, starting with the opening kickoff by the Panthers. Despite being warned by the coaching staff to watch out for an onside kick, the Bulldogs failed to cover the ball and Siloam Springs recovered the loss pigskin at the GHS 48-yard-line, stealing away one of Greenwood's second half offensive possessions, and setting up a short, three-play scoring drive to tie the score once again.
Following a play for no gain on first down, QB Braden Pippen connected with receiver Stuart Cifuentes for 35 yards down to the Greenwood 3-yard-line. Pippen scored on the next snap and the extra point tied the game at 21-21. But things continued to go downhill rapidly for the Bulldogs, with Hogan giving up his second pass interception less than a minute later, putting the Panthers' offense right back out on the field at the Greenwood 5-yard-line. Pippen needed only one snap to run the ball in for the touchdown, and Siloam Springs regained the lead at 28-21 less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Again starting from their own 20 after the kickoff sailed into the end zone, the Bulldogs regrouped offensively and marched 80 yards in just three plays to tie the score again. On third down from the 20, Hogan passed to Tony Sandifer, who ran left, then backwards, then all the way across the field to the right sideline, picking up blockers along the way for a remarkable touchdown run. McFain's kick tied the score at 28-all with 8:37 left in the third period.
On their next possession, the reinvigorated Panthers marched from their own 20-yard-line to the Greenwood 4 and threatened to score their third TD of the quarter. But GHS senior linebacker Marco Vota sacked Pippen at the 13, forcing a field goal try that was good from 30 yards out, giving Siloam Springs the lead, 31-28, at the 3:18 mark of the quarter.
But Greenwood's next possession was ended when a poor center snap could not be corralled by Hogan. The Panthers' recovered the loose ball at the GHS 10, and Pippen made the Bulldogs pay on the next snap, scoring what would be the winning touchdown, putting the home team up 38-28 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Still, the large number of Greenwood fans who made the trip north had hopes that their team could rally once again, and the GHS offense did not disappoint, marching 62 yards in nine plays before Adam McFain booted a 25-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 38-31 with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Greenwood defense also did its part, despite a roughing the punter penalty that gave the Panthers' offense new life, they forced another fourth down situation and a punt that gave the Bulldogs the football at their own 21-yard-line with 7:58 left.
On second down Hogan ran for seven yards, then threw to Seth Parker for a first down at the 38. Sunde got five yards to the 42, and two snaps later caught a precision pass from Hogan down the left sideline for a huge first down pickup at the 49-yard-line. Facing another third and long situation, Hogan completed another throw to Hayden Smith at the Siloam Springs' 38 to move the chains once again, keeping the drive alive as the clock continued to run down.
Sunde ran to the 31, then to the 25 on successive plays. Two snaps later, Hogan hooked up with Derek Morgan down the left sideline for a first down at the Panthers' 12. Sunde ran once to the 9 and on second down the Bulldogs caught a break when the defense was flagged for roughing the passer, putting the ball inside the 5-yard-line. Sunde ran on first down to the 1, and Greenwood scored on the next play, a run by Hogan, but the play was nullified by a holding call on the Bulldogs, which turned out to be the key play in the game. Backed up to the 11 and facing second down, Hogan fired three straight incomplete passes, giving the ball up on downs with just 2:59 left to play.
The Bulldogs still had two timeouts remaining, but would need to stop the Panthers from moving the chain if they were to have any chance to get the football back with time to score. But Siloam Springs QB Braden Pippen took charge of the offense and led his team to a pair of first downs, doing most of the damage himself, forcing the Bulldogs to use up their timeouts in vain. When the game ended, the Panthers and their fans broke out in a wild celebration, while the Bulldogs and their fans stood in hushed disappointment, wondering what had just happened.
Greenwood mistakes - turnovers and penalties - cost the Bulldogs the victory. There didn't seem to be a lack of effort, but maybe a lack of focus as the 'Dogs made crucial mistakes at the worst possible times, giving the Panthers good field position or extra chances to keep the football. The inability of the defense to stop the Siloam Springs' running game, and especially Pippen, also proved to be a critical ingredient in the loss. In truth, neither defense was able to stop the opposing offense consistently, except that the Panthers' defense, after a GHS penalty took points of the scoreboard, forced three incomplete passes at just the right time to preserve the victory.
Siloam Springs' head coach Bryan Ross was obviously pleased with his team's effort and his first victory over the respected and highly ranked Bulldogs. The win also gives the Panthers a big leg up on the race for the 5A West Conference championship. "It's a huge victory for us," he said. "You just feel like if you hit it hard and get after it, eventually you'll get some breaks. The kids took advantage of it. It's a sweet victory for sure."
As for GHS head coach Rick Jones, he also gave the Panthers their just due. "We made mistakes tonight, but I give those guys a lot of credit. It's a big win for those guys. They've worked hard. They had a great plan and they played really well. I give those guys all the credit in the world," said Jones. "They forced the action and jumped on us quick. I thought our kids responded pretty well. We battled back and actually got ahead. It was a great game - a seesaw affair. We made some mistakes at crucial times that were frustrating, and we're going to get better. Our kids worked really hard this week. We had some great practices and we're just going to keep getting better," said the coach.
Asked about the onside kick that seemed to change the momentum of the game, Coach Jones admitted that his players were on guard. "Our kids were watching for it, but it was just a great kick, and sometimes that happens. [The Panthers] executed crucial plays at crucial times and that's usually what happens when you have a game like this. They're a good football team. I knew coming in that it was going to be a battle. They looked good on film. They competed hard and they got after it. They played a really good game. They made fewer mistakes than we did. I think they outplayed us tonight. I thought our guys did a good job battling back. I was proud that after a tough [loss] last week and a tough week of practice, they battled back from being 14 down. Our kids showed good mettle tonight as well, but Siloam executed a few more times than we did."
Asked about his team's attitude and approach to the game and their mental lapses, Jones was careful not to fault his players too much. "I liked our spirit," he said. "It was a positive spirit. We played hard but we just made some mistakes. Those are things you can't do," he added, specifically referring to the late holding penalty that took the tying touchdown off the scoreboard.
Finally, Jones spoke about the grind of the conference season that has only just begun. "We know we have to play hard every week," he said. "If somebody slips up on you it's your own fault, because we know everybody in our conference can play with everybody else. I think it's as balanced as I've ever seen it from top to bottom. We know we have to go back next week and work hard. We've got a home game with Morrilton and we need to get better. Obviously our football team has a long way to go. We're not near where we want to be." Greenwood will host the Morrilton Devil Dogs this coming Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Smith-Robinson Stadium.