Bulldogs dominate second half against Pointers

Bulldogs dominate second half against Pointers

Greenwood 63, Van Buren 21

Photos By: Ross Fujibayashi & Peggy Barger

Last Friday’s home game against the Van Buren Pointers was a big deal for several reasons, aside from the 63-21 final score. First, it served as the 2022 homecoming game with all the accompanying festivities, most of which were conducted prior to kickoff. But this year’s homecoming was especially poignant because it celebrated the 100th anniversary of Greenwood High School football, which began in 1922 with a 7-0 win over nearby Mansfield.

At halftime a montage of vintage photos was displayed on the video board at Smith-Robinson Stadium highlighting many of the players, teams, and coaches who contributed to the growth and development of one of the state’s top football programs that now owns 10 state championships since the year 2000, the most recent one in 2020.

Former head coach Rick Jones, now an assistant head coach with the University of Missouri, took time to speak with the live stream broadcast team of Tim Terry and Kevin Jones via the Internet from Auburn University. Coach Jones led the Bulldogs to eight state titles in his 16 years at the helm. They also interviewed former head coach Ronnie Peacock, who attended the game in person.

Peacock turned around the GHS program in the mid-1990s and sparked a revolution in prep football around the state with his high-flying brand of offense, throwing the ball all over the yard until his departure in 2001, but not before winning the school’s first state championship the previous fall. During the week, local media outlets, including the Greenwood Dog Pound website, published articles memorializing the thousands of players, coaches, cheerleaders, band members, and others who’ve been part of the rich history of Greenwood football.

The 2022 Bulldogs then made sure that homecoming was a success by dominating the second half against the upstart Pointers, rolling to a lopsided 63-21 victory. But it wasn’t as easy as the score might indicate. Uncharacteristically, the ‘Dogs fell behind three times in the first half before tying the game at 21-all, then took a late lead before the half. They carried that momentum over into the second half to put the game away. The Pointers did not score over the final 31:49.

Van Buren received the opening kick, returning it to the 27 before driving 73 yards in six plays for the game’s first touchdown. The touchdown was set up by a 31-yard run by Trenton Cooley to the Greenwood 39 on second down. Running back Cameron Keller then rambled around left end for 28 yards and six points at the 8:18 mark. The point after was good for a 7-0 Pointers’ lead.

Just over two minutes later the Bulldogs tied the score after a brief possession. Junior L.J. Robbins returned the kickoff 40 yards to the Van Buren 49, greatly shortening the distance needed to score. Senior quarterback Hunter Houston then tossed a short pass to Grant Karnes in the backfield and the sophomore receiver got five yards to the 44. Houston then rolled to his left and found senior receiver Aiden Kennon open for a big gain to the 16-yard line.

Senior running back Jake Glover carried to the 14, then again to the 9-yard-line. On the next snap Houston went straight ahead to the six, moving the sticks for a new set of downs. Glover reached the four on the next play, then waltzed into the end zone on his next tote for the touchdown. The extra point kick by Steven Duren was good, tying the score at 7-7 (5:58).

The GHS defense forced a Van Buren punt on the Pointers’ next possession, but a GHS fumble moments later gave the ball back to the visitors, who traversed the 42 yards to the end zone in just six plays as the game moved into the second quarter. The touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Elijah Johnson to Trenton Cooley, both sophomores. The point after was good, putting the visitors back on top, 14-7 (10:11).

Undaunted, the Bulldogs went right back to work on offense, with Houston connecting with Robins on a swing pass on first down from the GHS 24 after the kickoff. The shifty receiver reached the 34 before Glover carried to the 46. Houston then passed to Karnes for a big gain to the Van Buren 29. Glover carried twice more to the 24 and Robins caught a short pass that reached the 18. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 23, Houston and Karnes hooked up again for the touchdown. Duran’s kick was true, and the game was tied again at 14-all (7:49).

But the young and talented Pointers came to play and wouldn’t give up, especially after returning the next kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Senior Chi Henry did the honors, fielding the ball on the right side of the field before reversing himself and gaining the left sideline all the way to pay dirt. The kick was good, putting the visitors back on top for the third time, 21-14, with 7:49 remaining in the first half. But it would be the last points Van Buren would score.

The Bulldogs needed only 1:10 to respond to the Pointers’ challenge, driving 60 yards in six snaps for the tying touchdown. L.J. Robins set up the possession with another stellar kick return of 29 yards to the GHS 40. On first down, Houston passed to Kennon to the Van Buren 48 before Glover carried to the 39. After a penalty to the 44, Kennon caught another toss from Houston, reaching the 25. Three snaps later, on third-and-10, Houston fired a missile to Robins, who made the catch in traffic at the goal line for the score. Duran’s kick knotted the score at 21-all with 6:49 left in the half.

But that was plenty of time for the Bulldogs to take their first lead of the game and put the Pointers in the rearview mirror the rest of the way. The momentum switched quickly after Greenwood senior linebacker Evan Williams picked off a Pointers’ pass and returned it 90 yards for the score down the GHS sideline before cutting back to the middle of the field. The interception halted a potential Van Buren scoring drive and put the Bulldogs on top for good. With just 1:35 left in the half, neither team scored again. The Bulldogs went to their locker room up 28-21.

But whatever momentum the ‘Dogs had at the end of the half, they quickly doubled and tripled down on it early in the third quarter. Grant Karnes briefly bobbled the opening kick return near the GHS 15, but quickly gathered himself and raced 84 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown. A bobbled snap was then picked up by holder and backup QB Kane Archer, who threw to senior Tanner McKusker for the accidental two-point conversion.

Leading 36-21 just 15 seconds into the half, the Bulldogs were off and running. Moments later Greenwood junior defensive back Landon Nelms intercepted a Pointers’ pass at the Van Buren 38 and returned it untouched for another defensive touchdown, or so it appeared. A penalty after the pick moved the ball back to the Van Buren 32, forcing the GHS offense to go to work for the first time in the half, and it didn’t take long.

After a six-yard gain to the 26, Houston passed to Karnes inside the 5-yard-line for another apparent touchdown, but again a holding penalty brought the ball back to the 42. On the next snap, Houston tossed a strike to sophomore receiver Isaiah Arrington behind the defense near the 10-yard-line and in for the score, finally. Duran’s kick made it 43-21 (9:28).

But the fun was just getting started for the GHS offense, with a little help from their defensive brethren. A fourth down stop by Greenwood put the ball back into the hands of Houston and company at the Van Buren 36 with just over seven minutes left in the third period. Houston ran to the 24 on second down and Glover ran twice to the 18. Houston then connected with Karnes again for the touchdown, the young receiver making a leaping catch over the defender in the left side of the end zone. The PAT was blocked by Van Buren, keeping the score at 49-21 (5:59).

The GHS offense had the ball twice more in the second half and scored both times. Following another Van Buren punt, Hunter Houston continued his great night of throwing the ball, completing a 60-yard TD pass to L.J. Robins, who made some nice cuts after snagging the ball near the Van Buren 40 and picking up a block from Aiden Kennon to reach the end zone. The extra point was good, 56-21, Greenwood with 2:48 remaining in the third period.

With the mercy rule in effect, the Bulldogs final score came on their only possession of the fourth quarter, starting at their own 38. With sophomore Kane Archer at quarterback, the ‘Dogs needed six normal plays and one spectacular play to score their last touchdown of the game and break the 60-point barrier for the second consecutive week.

After picking up a first down at the Van Buren 49, Archer threw deep to Karnes, who made a sensational one-handed grab with his left hand while falling to the turf near the 15-yard-line. Two snaps later Archer and Karnes hooked up for a 10-yard gain to the 2-yard-line, from where junior tailback Carson Hobbs scored moments later. Duran’s kick made the final, 63-21.

Offensively, the Bulldogs were both electric and efficient with Hunter Houston completing 15 of 17 pass attempts for 304 yards and five touchdowns. Grant Karnes was his top target with seven receptions for 119 yards and two scores. He also added a kickoff return for a touchdown. L.J. Robins had four grabs for 102 yards and two touchdowns while Aiden Kennon had four catches for 70 yards. Isaiah Arrington had just one catch, but it was for six points and covered 42 yards. Jake Glover ran 14 times for 67 yards. All stats are unofficial.

After the game, Head Coach Chris Young spoke to Richie Cagle, the Dog Pound’s sideline reporter and other members of the media. “I thought our defensive staff made great adjustments as halftime,” said the coach. “Our kids played downhill [in the second half]. Van Buren tried to play guys both ways, and that’s tough in this league. They’re going to get tired and wear down, and I think that’s what happened.

“Offensively, Coach [Stephen] Hogan and Coach [Austin] Moreton, what a job those guys are doing. I don’t think we’ve punted in three weeks. Our quarterback (Hunter Houston) is playing unbelievable. Our receivers and backs – just our whole offense – I’m really proud of those guys. I also thought [special teams] Coach [Josh] Holloway did a good job keeping the ball away from [Van Buren’s] #1.

“We’ve just got to keep getting better,” Young added. “Take away the first quarter the last three weeks, and we’ve gotten better. We’re still really young, and we have areas where we’ve got to coach better and play better, and that will be our goal this week.” The Bulldogs will travel to Greenbrier next Friday for another conference game before returning to Smith-Robinson Stadium two weeks later to host the Lake Hamilton Wolves. Greenwood will have an open date on October 7th.

Regarding homecoming, Young said, “It was a great week for me. I got to talk to Coach Jones several times, and I love being able to visit with him and share ideas. He’s one of my closest friends. And then to see Coach Peacock tonight – he hired me 23 years ago and I’m so thankful he gave me the opportunity. To be able to work with both of those guys is unbelievable, how they changed this community and school and how they impacted the lives of young men.”

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