Recently the Arkansas Activities Association released the 2020-2021 classification numbers and conference configurations for high school football, and Greenwood gridiron fans should be more than a little interested.
Already recognized as one of the top prep programs in the state, Bulldogs’ football may have gotten a boost with the departure of El Dorado, Sheridan, and Little Rock Hall from its conference schedule and the addition of Little Rock Parkview, Mountain Home, and Van Buren.
For the 2020-21 seasons, Greenwood's projected league schedule includes 6A West holdovers Benton, Lake Hamilton, Russellville, and Siloam Springs, and the addition of the three newcomers. All other non-football sports will continue to compete in Class 5A.
The biggest improvement for Greenwood will be in the realm of transportation. The Bulldogs will still travel to Central Arkansas to play Parkview rather than Little Rock Hall, but will no longer travel to Sheridan or El Dorado, substituting Mountain Home and Van Buren instead.
The trip to Mountain Home is no picnic at 195 miles and about 3½ hours, but it’s still better than the 211 miles and 4¼ hours to El Dorado, according to Google.
Obviously, the short jaunt across the Arkansas River to Van Buren is far better than the long drive to Sheridan in Central Arkansas.
And then there is the competitive difference between the departing teams and the new arrivals.
There’s probably not much of a change between Little Rock Hall and Parkview. If anything, Parkview is probably a little stronger than Hall, but Parkview is also the smallest school in Class 6A, replacing Greenwood for that distinction.
But the truth is that neither Hall nor Parkview are in Greenwood’s league competitively on the gridiron. The Bulldogs have won nine state championships since 2000 and have reached the state title game 11 times in the last 15 years, after the arrival of Head Coach Rick Jones.
Likewise, Mountain Home is no match for the ‘Dogs. The Bombers may come from a larger school, but have won just once (1-19) in the last two years. That’s a far cry from El Dorado.
The Wildcats have won several state titles and are one of the perennial gridiron powers in the state, or at least they were under Head Coach Scott Reed, who has now moved on to Cabot.
But the most interesting competitive change for the Bulldogs involves the Van Buren Pointers, who are playing their last season in Class 7A in 2019.
Our neighbors from Crawford County have struggled mightily over the past two decades since a rapidly rising student population caused them to break into the state’s highest classification in football. But they should be much more competitive in Class 6A starting in 2020.
The Pointers were 3-8 last fall, including a playoff game, so they are not without talent or ability. We know their defense will be tough because their leader is former Greenwood assistant coach and defensive coordinator Kenneth Chick, who did great work with the Bulldogs. But Van Buren’s head coach is Casey Dick, the former Arkansas Razorback quarterback (2005-08).
In his first season at the helm Coach Dick led his team to post-season play in 2018, so despite a sub .500 record last fall, Van Buren has established something to build on, and dropping down in classification will surely be a welcome shot-in-the-arm for the Pointers in 2020.
Behind only Jonesboro, Van Buren will be the second largest school in Class 6A starting in 2020 and should have a significant impact on the competitive landscape of the 6A West.
It may take a while before the Pointers contend for a conference title against the league’s two perennial power teams, Greenwood and Benton, but Van Buren should be very competitive against the rest of the schedule.
Thus, Greenwood fans may be in for a treat, adding a third River Valley rival to their schedule in addition to non-conference foes Fort Smith Northside and Southside.
The start of the 2019 high school football season is less than 90 days away and Greenwood fans are getting ready for another stellar season. Go Bulldogs!