Football season ended for the Greenwood Bulldogs with a 42-35 loss to Pulaski Academy on Saturday, December 3rd in the Class 6A state championship game. Look for many more title games between the same two teams over the next few years. But on the bright side, the end of football meant the release of several multi-sport athletes who also play basketball for Head Coach Donnie Husband. Most of them took a few days off before reporting for hardcourt duty, but by the following Wednesday they were all present and ready to get after it, except for junior forward Peyton Presson, who is still on the mend after a football injury in late October that required surgery. He hopes to return to action sometime in January.
That’s when 5A West conference play begins, and the Bulldogs have hopes of making some noise in the league race this year after sneaking into the playoffs last season as the fourth seed with a 7-7 conference mark. They open 5A West play at home against the always talented Russellville Cyclones on Friday, January 6th. Until then, Coach Husband and assistant coach Dexter Pearcy will do their best to prepare their team, especially the late arriving football players, for the rigors of conference play.
The gridiron crew already has six games under their belts over the past two weeks, with three more contests and several more practices to come before their date with the Cyclones. Greenwood played at both Springdale and Springdale Har-Ber the week after the state championship game, followed by a home game against Fort Smith Southside and a trip to Tulsa for a three-game tournament last week. They ended their pre-holiday stretch with a trip to Nashville this past Tuesday.
In the battle of the Bulldogs at Springdale on December 6th the visitors got off to a decent start, but couldn’t maintain that level of play against a very good Springdale squad with a tremendous size advantage. Five of Greenwood’s six healthy footballers were also not yet available. The GHS boys scored 14 first quarter points but trailed 22-14 after one period.
After Greenwood trimmed its deficit by a few points early in the second quarter, Springdale went on a run to build a 35-23 halftime lead before running away with it in the second half. The visiting Bulldogs scored just six points in the second half compared to 34 points for the home team, ending with a lopsided 71-29 Springdale victory.
Offensively for Greenwood, senior Dawson Holt led the team in scoring with nine points. Jayden Garnes added eight points, while fellow sophomore Caleb Burnette scored five points, followed by senior Gavin White with four points and junior Brenden Chick with three points. Chick reported early after football ended.
With the notable exception of Chick, no other football players were yet available that Tuesday against Springdale. “They didn’t come in until Wednesday,” said Coach Husband. “Brenden Chick came in and played, but we played without Josh [Ligon]. He had a car wreak the night before. He got rearended and was not able to play. So we had to play some [junior varsity] guys and they fought pretty [hard], but [Springdale] is really good with a lot of size with three 6’6” kids. They just wore us down size-wise and went on an 18-0 run.”
Three days later, on December 9th, the Bulldogs were much more competitive against the Har-Ber Wildcats, outscoring the home team in both the first and third quarters. But a poor offensive showing in the fourth period doomed the ‘Dogs to a 10-point 61-51 road loss. Greenwood had three players reach double figures in scoring, including footballer L.J. Robins.
The Bulldogs scorched the net for 18 points in the first quarter, building an 18-12 lead after eight minutes, and followed up with a solid second period, taking a 32-28 advantage to the locker room at halftime. Dawson Holt and junior Josh Ligon led the way offensively in the opening half, each scoring in double digits for Greenwood.
The Bulldogs continued their fine play into the third quarter, outscoring the Wildcats by a point, 17-16, to maintain their lead after three periods, 49-44, with eight minutes left to play. L.J. Robins did most of the scoring damage for the visitors in the third stanza with 11 points. But it was all Har-Ber in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats scored 16 points even as the Bulldogs went ice cold, netting just two points the rest of the way.
Guard Josh Ligon, the son of Coach Husband, scored 15 points in the game, 12 of which came in the first quarter. L.J. Robins matched Ligon’s 15 and scored 11 of those points in the third quarter. Dawson Holt’s 11 points all came in the opening half. The rest of the Bulldogs contributed just 10 points in the tough loss.
“We led most of the game,” recalled Husband, “but then we struggled to score. In the fourth quarter we really needed to execute, but that’s hard to do on just a couple days of practice. We needed to do some stuff and just couldn’t do it. [Har-Ber] had two big kids inside and a guard who shot it better than anything we saw on film. It was a little disappointing because we had a really good chance to win that one, and just let it get away at the end.”
Fort Smith Southside
On Tuesday, December 13th, the Bulldogs played their first home game of the new season at H.B. Stewart Arena against local rival Fort Smith Southside, and the contest was very competitive throughout, with both teams reaching double figures in scoring in all four quarters. But when the dust settled the visiting Mavericks came away as 64-58 winners.
Southside narrowly won the first period by a 16-15 margin and both teams scored 17 points in the second quarter. After leading 33-32 at the intermission, the Mavericks added to their lead in the third stanza, outscoring Greenwood 12-10 to build a 45-42 advantage with eight minutes remaining. Despite scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs could not catch the steady Southsiders, who scored 19 points to preserve their victory.
For the Bulldogs, senior Aiden Kennon had a big game with 19 points to lead the way offensively. Another footballer, sophomore Grant Karnes added 14 points, showcasing his athletic ability and scoring potential as the season unfolds. Senior Hunter Houston, who plays quarterback for the football ‘Dogs, had eight points, and Josh Ligon chipped in with seven points.
Despite coaching in Oklahoma for decades, Coach Husband had never taken a team to the Veterans Memorial Classic tournament at Tulsa Memorial High School. But the opportunity presented itself this fall for the Bulldogs to participate in the three-day event and gain some much needed playing time for a roster recently infused with half-a-dozen footballers still trying to fine tune their basketball skills. The tournament was played last week, Thursday-Saturday, December 15-17. “We were able to play three quality games in three days,” said Coach Husband. “Saturday we weren’t too good, but the first couple days [Thursday-Friday] we weren’t too bad.”
The Bulldogs won their opening round contest against Collinsville (OK) by a score of 53-42, distributing the ball well and getting significant points from seven different players. Greenwood scored in double figures in all four quarters, but held their opponents to just 16 second-half points in putting the game away. The visitors from Arkansas led after each period, 17-12, 29-26, 41-33, and 53-42.
“We played pretty well and [Collinsville] had a 6’9” post kid,” said the coach. “But we were more physical than them and we hit some shots and were able to win.” The Bulldogs have a lot of “tweeners” or players around six feet tall, but no giants. At 6’4”, Brenden Chick is the tallest player Greenwood has besides three others at 6’2”, including the injured Peyton Presson.
Dawson Holt had a big game with 16 points to lead the Bulldogs, the only GHS player in double digits, though six other GHS players scored at least four points in the contest. L.J. Robins had eight points, Gavin White scored seven points, Aiden Kennon had five points, as did both Josh Ligon and Grant Karnes. Hunter Houston contributed four points.
Up next last Friday for the Bulldogs were the defending Class 5A Oklahoma state champion Chargers of Tulsa Memorial, currently ranked #2 in the state and the tournament hosts. Greenwood had two decent offensive quarters, the first and the fourth, sandwiched around two bad periods, the second and third. The game was tied at 12-all after one period, but the Chargers pulled ahead for good by halftime, 26-19. Neither team reached double figures in scoring in the third stanza, but the GHS deficit increased to 34-23.
Tulsa Memorial then closed strong, outscoring the Bulldogs 16-12 over the final eight minutes for the 50-35 victory. No GHS player scored in double digits. Aiden Kennon led the way with nine points, followed by Brenden Chick with seven points and Dawson Holt with six points.
“We went a little bit cold down the stretch and Josh [injured ankle] didn’t play in the second half, which hurt our depth,” said the coach. “They had a 6’8” guy and two 6’5” guys, so the size kind of got us at the end. But we missed some shots that were quality shots that could have kept us in the game, then they knocked down a couple threes in a row and kind of stretched it out.”
The Bulldogs made their third trip in three days to Tulsa last Saturday to take on the Sandites of Sand Springs (OK), and once again offensive inconsistency plagued Greenwood, which scored 22 points in the first half to just 13 points in the second half, resulting in a 48-35 loss. The Sandites led after each quarter, 12-10, 25-22, 39-27, and 48-35.
Again, no GHS player was in double figures as a scorer, led by Dawson Holt’s nine points. Brenden Chick and Grant Karnes both scored six points while L.J. Robins and Aiden Kennon scored five points each.
“We played really bad just before the half,” admitted Husband. “We were up one [point] and went in down three [points], and just never seemed to recover in the second half. We didn’t have a lot of energy and it was kind of disappointing. I thought it was a game we could have and should have won, but we just didn’t get it done. We just don’t have any consistency right now. We’re hit and miss as far as the offense goes. We just need some gym time and I think we’ll be alright. Those guys are just getting their basketball legs under them.”
School was out for the holidays, but that didn’t prevent the Bulldogs from heading south to Nashville this past Tuesday afternoon for a JV/varsity doubleheader against the Class 4A Scrappers. But again Greenwood’s lack of consistency reared its ugly head in the second half of the contest.
The game was tied at 51 with about three minutes left, but the ‘Dogs couldn’t buy a bucket or free throw the rest of the way while Nashville scored 12 unanswered points for the 63-51 victory. “Not executing down the stretch of close games is killing us right now,” said Coach Husband.
The two teams matched each other over the first eight minutes, tied 12-12 at the end of one period. The Bulldogs then took a temporary lead, outscoring the Scrappers on their home court, 17-9, taking a 29-21 advantage into the locker room at the intermission. But Nashville gained back five points in the third stanza, winning the quarter by a 15-10 margin.
Still ahead 39-36 at the start of the fourth period, the Bulldogs slowly gave ground until the score was knotted at 51-all with about three minutes remaining before the lid closed on the GHS basket. But a red hot Nashville continued to stroke the net for a total of 27 points in the quarter, including numerous successful trips to the foul line.
Two GHS players scored double figure points in the loss. Dawson Holt led his teammates with 15 points while Aiden Kennon added 12 points. L.J. Robins and Grant Karnes had eight points each and junior Braden Bollman came off the bench and scored six points.
The Bulldogs will now break for the Christmas holiday before returning to practice next Monday and traveling to Mountain Home for a three-day tournament starting on Tuesday. They will then have six or seven days to practice around the New Year’s holiday before the start of league play at Russellville on January 6th. “Hopefully that 10-day stretch will be a big part of us getting ready to play [conference],” said the coach.