After a 2-5 start to their season, the Greenwood High School boys’ soccer team is on something of a roll, winners of three straight matches and four of their last five. First-year GHS Head Coach Tyler Woods has his players trending in the right direction.
The ‘Dogs are also 4-3 in 5A West conference play after three consecutive league victories over Beebe, Alma, and Greenbrier. Coach Woods will take his team to Central Arkansas on Friday to face Little Rock Christian, another conference foe.
The only blemish on the Greenwood record the past two weeks was a 5-0 shutout loss at Siloam Springs on March 26th.
The Panthers, one of the better 5A teams in the state, scored a pair of first half goals to lead 2-0 at the intermission, then put the match away with a trio of scores in the second half, while also playing stellar defense, keeping Greenwood out of the net for the entire 80 minutes.
But three days later (March 29th) the GHS boys bounced back from losing at Siloam Springs with a shutout of their own, 3-0, over the visiting Beebe Badgers in conference play.
Then last Tuesday Greenwood traveled to Alma and won by the exact same score of 3-0 over a young and struggling Airedales squad coached by Cory Sturdivant, a longtime friend of Coach Woods.
Sturdivant is the older of the two coaches and has a couple of state titles under his belt while at Hot Springs. He also recommended Woods for the opening at Greenwood last spring. Woods was the head Badger at Beebe at the time. They talk quite often.
“I [don’t] consider myself a mentor to him because he grew up playing soccer, but I know his team is better because of him,” said Sturdivant of Woods. “The first year at Beebe they were like we (Alma) are now – trying to find their way. Then the second year they were much better.”
Woods acknowledged their close relationship. “Sturdivant is one of my best friends,” he said. “I started the programs at Beebe, boys and girls, and a friend of mine there gave me his number. (Sturdivant) was the Hot Springs coach at the time. He didn’t start the program there, but he took it from winning nothing to winning two straight state championships.”
“He’s trying to grow the sport and I’m trying to grow the sport,” Woods said. “We talk a lot, either by phone or texting. He’s just a standup guy. He’s always been there for me.”
Both coaches are learning the intensity of the Greenwood-Alma rivalry, which is sure to grow even stronger over the next few years in soccer. But the first round went to Greenwood, starting with Jack Miller’s goal at the 10:26 mark of the opening half.
Leading 1-0 at the intermission, the Bulldogs scored again early in the second half on a penalty kick by Landon Henning just seven minutes in.
The third goal, off the foot of Riley Wann with an assist from Hector Morales, finished off the GHS scoring with 8:11 left in regulation.
“For a first-year program, he’s (Sturdivant) got them working their butts off, and our guys didn’t come out [that way],” said Woods after the match. “It seemed like Alma wanted it more than we did. We got a lucky goal on that first one, and it gave us a little relief, and then we could settle in and relax.”
Both teams had their chances to score in the first half, but Miller’s goal turned the momentum in Greenwood’s favor, and the young Airedales could never get it back.
After winning at Alma, the Bulldogs hosted Greenbrier last Friday at Smith-Robinson Stadium and held on for a 2-1 victory, scoring both goals in the first half.
Leading 2-0 at the break, the GHS defense held the Panthers to one second half goal as the Bulldogs won their third straight conference match to move one game above the .500 mark in league play.
The Bulldogs were slated to host a non-conference match against Cossatot River of Cove, Arkansas this past Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. They will play at Little Rock Christian on Friday.