The Greenwood Bulldogs remained unbeaten last Friday night, upping their record to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in 6A West conference play after a methodical and convincing win at Siloam Springs over the Panthers, 49-10. Across the state, more than a dozen games were cancelled last Friday due to Covid-19 concerns.
Greenwood has four games left in the regular season, including next week’s home contest against the Russellville Cyclones. The ‘Dogs will close out their home schedule the following week against the Benton Panthers before hitting the road for their final two games at Van Buren and Lake Hamilton. The state playoffs begin on November 13th.
Under third-year head coach Brandon Craig, Siloam Springs is much improved and entered the game with a 3-2 record, despite a lopsided 40-0 loss to Benton a week earlier. But the Panthers challenged the GHS defense early with an 83-yard, nine-play drive to open the game. It was the first time the Bulldogs have trailed this season, 7-0.
A major strength of the team in the pre-season, the Greenwood defense has lost several starting seniors to injuries, including Tayshaun Leader and Fletcher Gill, both lost for the season, and Beau Asher, who still has a chance to return, perhaps in time for post-season play. Despite the injuries, the team is allowing just 10 points per game through six games.
Unfazed by the Panthers’ quick start, the GHS offense went to work on its own nine-play drive to tie the score after a 60-yard march led by senior quarterback L.D. Richmond. Head Coach Chris Young and offensive coordinator Zach Watson very quickly recognized that the home defense was dropping eight defenders in pass coverage, giving Greenwood an open invitation to run the ball, and that’s what the Bulldogs did, rushing for nearly 300 yards in the game.
Siloam Springs was also determined to deny Greenwood’s kick returners the chance to break a long one, so all three Panthers’ kickoffs were short and went to the upbacks, the first one returned by senior Jordan Hanna for 16 yards to the visitors’ 40-yard-line. On first down, Richmond threw to senior Jase Strozier for eight yards to the 48.
He then completed a short toss to senior Peyton Carter, crossing midfield to the Panthers’ 49. Two snaps later senior running back Hunter Wilkinson bolted for 14 yards to the 36 to earn a fresh set of downs. Another Wilkinson tote reached the 32 before Richmond rolled out to his right and fired a pass to Strozier good for 13 yards to the 19.
Wilkinson then got the call on the next two snaps, reaching the 6-yard-line, before Richmond connected with Strozier again on a short swing pass for the touchdown. Senior kicker Luis Morales knocked the extra point through the uprights to knot the score at 7-all with 6:09 showing on the game clock. The Bulldogs would build a 28-10 lead at the half.
Greenwood’s next score was set up by a Siloam Springs’ turnover, an overthrown pass that was picked off by GHS senior cornerback Jayden Jasna. He had a nice return after the interception, but a penalty flag brought the ball back to the Bulldogs’ 35-yard-line. Back on the field, the offense needed 11 plays to score and take the lead for good.
Richmond completed an 8-yard pass on first down to the 43, but two successive running plays got nowhere, leaving the ‘Dogs facing fourth down. But Wilkinson finally broke through for a first down at the 47, moving the sticks and keeping the drive alive. Three snaps later, Richmond scrambled to buy time and completed a third down pass to junior Luke Brewer at the home 43, for another first down.
Wilkinson then got 10 yards to the 33 before junior Cameron Krone picked up five yards to the 23. It was Krone’s first game action this season after being injured in the pre-season. Unfortunately, he was helped off the field in the second half with an apparent leg injury, the extent of which has yet to be determined.
A face mask penalty on Krone’s run moved the ball to the 15, followed by a pass from Richmond to Brewer that reached the 4-yard-line. Wilkinson then followed his blockers and bulled his way into the end zone on the next snap. Morales added the extra point, and the Bulldogs went up 14-7 with 1:41 left in the opening period.
But the pesky Panthers weren’t going away without a fight, as Siloam Springs responded with another long drive after Morales put the kickoff in the end zone. From their own 20, the Panthers marched 73 yards to the GHS 7-yard-line before the defense forced a fourth down field goal try from 26 yards out. The kick was good, making the score 14-10 with 10:27 left in the second quarter.
However, that was it for the Siloam Springs’ offense, as Greenwood’s defensive adjustments plugged the running lanes and the secondary clamped down on the Panthers’ passing game. Offensively, the visitors scored twice more before halftime to seize control of the game. Three more second half scores invoked the sportsmanship rule for much of the fourth period.
After the Panthers’ scored, Jordan Hanna got his second kick return of the game, advancing the ball 14 yards to the GHS 38. Wilkinson and Richmond carried twice, sandwiched around an incomplete pass, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 29, where the Bulldogs faced third-and-19 to keep the possession alive. With everyone expecting a pass, Coach Young called a draw play to Wilkinson, and the senior responded with a big gain to the Siloam Springs 47 for a first down.
With the Panthers’ defense overplaying the pass, the GHS offense kept the ball on the ground. Wilkinson ran for five more yards to the 42, followed by Krone, who carried twice to the 21, and Richmond, who reached the 14. Wilkinson then finished the drive with two runs of seven yards each, the last one for the touchdown. Morales made the score 21-10 (7:55).
After the visiting defense forced a quick three-and-out by Siloam Springs, the Bulldogs were back in business at their own 36 with 6:22 left in the half. Richmond and company then embarked on an 11-play drive to add their fourth touchdown of the game. Only three of those snaps resulted in passes, including the scoring play.
Wilkinson ran six times for 31 yards, getting about five yards a carry. Crone carried once for seven yards, but had to be helped off the field with yet another injury. Richmond carried once for a short gain, but completed two of his three passing attempts for 24 yards to Strozier and Brewer, the latter catch for 17 yards and the touchdown. Morales added the PAT, pushing the Greenwood lead to 28-10.
But with just over three minutes left before the intermission, the Panthers weren’t about to give up or give in, and nearly scored on the last play of the half. Starting from their own 20, the home team converted on a fourth down play at their own 31, then capitalized on a roughing the passer call on the Bulldogs, moving the ball near midfield.
After reaching the GHS 33, and with time running out, the Panthers completed a sideline pass that almost resulted in six points before Jayden Jasna managed to bring down the receiver inside the Greenwood 5-yard-line as time expired. The two teams headed to their locker rooms with the ‘Dogs still on top by 18 points at 28-10.
Greenwood received the opening kick of the third quarter and was driving offensively when a deflected pass led to an interception and long return by the Panthers, with Richmond having to make the tackle himself at the Siloam Springs’ 50, losing his helmet in the process. But the home offense couldn’t move the ball and quickly punted it away, then got a break when the ‘Dogs were flagged on the return, moving the ball back to the 8-yard-line.
Sophomore QB Hunter Houston temporarily relieved Richmond and completed a second down pass for seven yards, also keeping the ball for an 11-yard gain two snaps later. He then passed for 15 yards to Peyton Carter, moving the ball to the 47. Wilkinson also carried twice for six yards.
With both his head and helmet still attached to his body, Richmond then returned to the game to finish the scoring drive, completing a pair of short passes to the Siloam Springs’ 40. He also ran for six yards before connecting with senior Caden Brown for six more at the 28, then 14 additional yards to Peyton Carter at the 14. Wilkinson reached the 12 on the next snap before Richmond ran a QB keeper, making a nice move to find the end zone. Morales added the extra point.
With 4:41 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs led 35-10 and could begin thinking about the mercy rule, something they had done in two of their previous five games. But the Panthers weren’t whipped yet, crossing midfield and reaching the GHS 40 before turning the ball over on downs after failing to convert on a fourth-and-long pass attempt.
From their own 43, the Bulldogs then marched 57 yards in eight plays for their sixth touchdown. Richmond completed three of his five passing attempts for 43 yards, including a TD toss of 23 yards to Luke Brewer, duplicating their earlier scoring play in the right side of the end zone. Wilkinson ran three times for 14 yards. Morales made the score 42-10 with only seconds remaining in the third quarter.
After another defensive stop by the Bulldogs, sophomore Aiden Kennon returned a punt 12 yards to the home 43, but a Siloam Springs player was injured on the play, requiring medical attention. A long delay ensued and eventually the player was removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to the hospital by ambulance, but not before raising his hand to the crowd and getting a nice round of applause from both the fans and players. Greenwood then drove for its final score.
With Hunter Houston now at the controls, senior running back Ty Moose ran to the 39, then twice more to the 31 for a first down. Houston passed to sophomore Tanner McKusker to the 25, and again to McKusker at the 17, moving the sticks once more. The GHS coaches then sent in the #2 offensive line unit to finish the drive, and it didn’t take long as Moose bounded his way into the end zone from 17 yards out. Morales made the score 49-10 with 6:50 remaining, invoking the mercy rule.
Unofficially, the Bulldogs outgained Siloam Springs in total offense by a margin of 483 to 277 yards. Richmond completed 20 of 27 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns. The ‘Dogs rolled up 289 yards on the ground, largely due to the good work of the offensive line.
“The offensive line did a great job,” said running back Hunter Wilkinson. “I was fortunate enough to break off some good runs,” he added. “When the passing game is clicking, it opens things up with a lot of different options.” Likewise, Coach Young added his approval.
“We like to spread the ball out, but we are going to take what [the defense] gives us,” said Young. “[Siloam Springs] had a small 3-1 box that forced us to run the ball, so we took advantage of it. And I thought our offensive line did a great job. I was [also] proud of how Richmond controlled the game and made some big plays for us. And it’s great to have Hunter back healthy, because you saw what he was capable of tonight. All of these kids, offensively and defensively, have really responded well, and there is nothing more we could ask [of them].”
The 38-point victory marked the 10th consecutive win over Siloam Springs by the Bulldogs. The Panthers last beat Greenwood in 2010, when both schools were playing in the 5A classification, and just before the ‘Dogs went on their historic 50-game winning streak in route to three straight state titles (2010-12). Greenwood has won 15 of the last 16 times the two teams have played.
Next Friday, Greenwood hosts Russellville (1-5) while Siloam Springs travels to Lake Hamilton (5-0). In other conference games, Van Buren (3-3) hosts Little Rock Parkview (3-1), and Benton (4-2) welcomes Mountain Home (3-3).
At the end of September, Benton narrowly defeated Siloam Springs in an offensive shootout, 47-40. Since then Benton has beaten Siloam Springs (40-0) and Little Rock Parkview (30-20). All unbeaten in league play, Greenwood, Benton, and Lake Hamilton will play each other in the final three weeks of the regular season to determine the conference championship and post-season seedings. All 16 teams in Class 6A will qualify for the playoffs this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.