Bulldogs to hold spring football game Thursday

Bulldogs to hold spring football game Thursday

The Greenwood Bulldogs, along with third-year Head Coach Chris Young and his excellent staff of assistants, will preview the upcoming 2022 gridiron season on Thursday night in the annual Blue-White spring game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. The varsity contest starts at 7 p.m. and admission is a case of drinking water or Powerade per family. The pre-season scrimmage is scheduled to last for about 90 minutes or until around 8:30 p.m.

As an added treat for the fans there will also be an opportunity to showcase aspects of both the eighth and ninth grade teams. From 6-6:30 the eighth grade will hold a 7-on-7 passing session and a linemen competition. The freshmen Bulldogs will do the same between 6:30 and 7 p.m. The Jr. ‘Dogs finished last season unbeaten at 9-0 to win the River Valley Conference championship, and that cast of players are now sophomores on an already well-stocked varsity squad. Actually, the last two ninth grade squads have gone undefeated and currently have a 20-game winning streak.

With those kind of reinforcements, the Bulldogs appear primed for another state championship run with a good number of skilled and experienced returning players from last year’s state runner-up team that finished 9-4, losing to El Dorado in the title game. It was Greenwood’s sixth appearance in the championship game in the past seven years (2015-18, 2020-21). The Bulldogs have played in 14 state title games since 2000 and have won ten championships. Coach Young has been a part of every one of those games, including the last two as head coach after taking over for the legendary Rick Jones (2004-19) who won eight state titles.

But it hasn’t been easy for Young. His first season as the Top Dog was 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic with all the uncertainty and changes that brought to athletics at every level. Amazingly, Greenwood didn’t miss a game that season and finished 14-0 to defeat Lake Hamilton in the state finals. Last year Young and his staff dealt with an unexpected and unprecedented rash of injuries to key players. Already crippled before facing the El Dorado Wildcats, the Bulldogs lost quarterback Hunter Houston and top receiver L.J. Robins during the championship game, losing 27-17.

But Houston and Robins are both back in 2022, along with a host of other veteran players and an influx of talented newcomers, including national sensation Kane Archer, who is finishing up eighth grade later this month. Archer quarterbacked the ninth-grade team to a perfect season last fall and is expected to compete with junior Cole Kindle for the #2 QB job with the varsity. A 2026 grad, Archer (6’1”, 191) already has college offers from the University of Arkansas, Texas A&M, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida State, Missouri and Michigan.

Senior QB Hunter Houston underwent off-season shoulder surgery and is reportedly throwing the ball better than ever this spring. He will also have a bevy of talented and proven receivers to target this fall, including Robins and Peyton Presson, both juniors, along with seniors Aiden Kennon and Tanner McKusker, and impressive sophomore Grant Karnes, who moved up from ninth grade at the end of last season and played in the championship game.

Jake Glover returns at running back after missing the last half of the 2022 season due to injury. He will be joined by another senior, the talented but oft-injured Javon Williamson, who was hurt in the state semi-finals last year and did not play against El Dorado. The Bulldogs will look for more depth at the position from the sophomore and junior classes, including last year’s excellent ninth grade tailback Jeremy Lawyer.

The offensive line returns a pair of starters, senior Hayden Webb and junior Ryan Shortes, and the GHS defense has several returning players also, including senior safety Storm Scherrey, who missed most of last season with an injury, and junior Braden Skaggs, who filled in for Scherrey and tied a state record with three interceptions in the title game. Senior linebacker Evan Williams also returns and was an all-conference performer in 2021.

Defensive coordinator Jason Gill and offensive line coach Austin Moreton are hard at work to find complementary pieces to fill the holes left by the 2021 graduating class, but have successful track records doing so. Gill and Moreton are two of the best in the state at their jobs. Coach Young has surrounded himself with an excellent staff, all of which return from last season, and two of them are former GHS players, secondary coach Travis Sandifer and co-offensive coordinator Stephen Hogan.

Finally, just to whet the appetite, reclassification and conference restructuring has imposed some interesting changes on the 2022 schedule for the Bulldogs. Starting this coming season there will be 19 schools in Class 6A for football instead of the usual 16 as in the past. That makes for an unbalanced schedule in Class 6A. The East has 10 teams, and will play only one non-conference game. The 6A West, which includes Greenwood, has nine teams and will play two non-league opponents followed by eight conference games. Presumably, the post-season will include the top six teams from each division.

As usual, the Bulldogs will open with a pre-season scrimmage at Class 7A Fayetteville on August 16th and start their regular season on the road at Stillwater, Oklahoma, on August 26th. Their second and last non-conference game will follow on September 2nd at home against annual Sebastian County rival Fort Smith Northside.

5A West conference play begins in week three on September 9th against Mountain Home, also at home, followed by a road game at Siloam Springs on the 16th, a home contest against Van Buren on the 23rd, a road trip to new league member Greenbrier on the 30th, a bye week on October 7th, a home game against Lake Hamilton on the 14th, and a journey to Russellville on the 21st. Then things get very interesting in late October and early November.

On October 28th the Bulldogs host the Pulaski Academy Bruins in what is likely to be the game of the week in the state. Greenwood and PA have dominated the rankings in Class 6A and 5A for the past several years. Although a small private school team, the Bruins have won numerous state championships over the years in whatever classification they have played. This will be their first season in Class 6A and the victor in the Greenwood-PA contest will likely win the conference.

To close out the regular season the Bulldogs travel to Little Rock Christian Academy to battle the Warriors on November 4th. Also a private school, LR Christian is known for its athletic prowess across multiple sports, and in recent years has been one of the few teams to challenge Pulaski Academy in Class 5A. It would be wise for the Bulldogs to not overlook this game.

So, GHS football fans don’t have much longer to wait for a taste and preview of the coming season. The Bulldogs are practicing now in preparation for Thursday’s showcase scrimmage and have a full summer of activities, including their annual FASDOGS camp to condition themselves and hone their skills for another exciting gridiron campaign. The veteran players are hoping to erase the memory of last year’s loss in the title game and the newcomers want to prove themselves to their teammates and the coaching staff. It’s all adding up to yet another stellar season of Bulldogs’ football.

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