It was a long trip, but worth the drive as the Greenwood Bulldogs improved to 5-0 this season after another dominating performance in their 6A West conference opener at Mountain Home, winning 40-7. After Little Rock Parkview cancelled last week’s game with Greenwood due to Covid-19 concerns, replaced on the schedule by Bentonville-West, the league opener for the Bulldogs was pushed back a week.
It was the first time Greenwood and Mountain Home had played since the early 1990s. The two schools had a brief flirtation during the 1991-92 seasons, both games won by the Bulldogs. Since then the two programs have gone in different directions. With the arrival of head coach Ronnie Peacock in 1994 the Bulldogs quickly became a gridiron power, winning their first state title in 2000. Former head coach Rick Jones then won eight more titles during his 16 years at the helm. Current head coach Chris Young was around as an assistant or as offensive coordinator for all nine state championships.
On the flip side, the Bombers have suffered through two consecutive 0-10 seasons and won only nine games since 2012, including the two games they’ve already won this season. New head coach Steve Ary, a gridiron veteran and member of the Missouri Football Coaches Hall of Fame, is hoping to turn things around, and by all appearances is having some success, built mostly around the talents and experience of senior quarterback Bryce McKay.
But McKay’s talents weren’t enough to overcome Greenwood’s smothering defense, a trademark of the 2020 Bulldogs. With the GHS offense firing on all cylinders in the first half, the defense clamped down hard on the Bombers, forcing three punts, stuffing a fourth down play, and recovering a fumble on Mountain Home’s first five possessions, at the end of which the visiting Bulldogs led 40-0 late in the first half.
With the mercy rule in play, Coach Young called off his ‘Dogs at the end of the second quarter and began subbing in with reserves. He continued to do so throughout the second half, and with the clock rolling after the intermission, the game was over in less than two hours. The Bombers managed only a single second half touchdown against the GHS reserve defense.
The Bulldogs’ initial score came on their first possession of the game. Senior Caden Brown returned the opening kick 13 yards to the GHS 36. Senior quarterback L.D. Richmond then went to work picking apart the Bombers’ pass defense with his short, accurate tosses to a bevy of talented receivers, including junior Luke Brewer, who caught the game’s first pass for seven yards to the 43. Senior running back Hunter Wilkinson then rambled for five yards to the 48.
Five of the next six plays were all runs, three by Wilkinson for 20 yards and two by Richmond for seven yards, including a touchdown run of three yards. In between, Richmond passed to Brewer again for 21 yards, setting up the score. Backup kicker Angel Hernandez, a senior, then knocked through the extra point for a 7-0 GHS lead (9:52).
After forcing a quick three-and-out by the Mountain Home offense, the Bulldogs were back in business at their own 38. Ninety seconds later they were in the end zone again after a nine-play drive, overcoming a penalty along the way. Seven of those plays were passes, two of which fell incomplete. The others were caught by Caden Brown (3), Jase Strozier, and Hunter Wilkinson. Besides using his arm, Richmond also scrambled for 12 yards on second down, reaching midfield.
The touchdown came on a pass over the middle to Wilkinson, running free and wide open, making the catch and proceeding unhindered for six points. However, the extra point was wide, leaving the score 13-0 at the 6:29 mark of the opening period. But these Bulldogs were just getting warmed up.
Following another Mountain Home punt, the GHS offense returned to the field, starting at their own 23-yard-line. Little more than a minute later they reached the end zone for the third time in the opening stanza, though doing so in a rather unorthodox manner. After losing 11 yards on their first two snaps, the ‘Dogs faced third-and-21 from their own 12 before they flipped the switch.
On third down, Richmond found senior Peyton Carter near the left sideline, far short of the first down marker. But the lanky receiver somehow escaped capture and sprinted ahead for a first down before being knocked out-of-bounds. On the next snap, Richmond hit a streaking Caden Brown near the home 40-yard-line, and the speedy senior left the pursuit behind in the proverbial dust, adding to the GHS lead. Hernandez then made the score 20-0 with 3:39 still showing on the game clock.
The Bombers tried some razzle-dazzle on the ensuing kickoff, throwing the ball across the field for a nice gain to midfield. Energized by the play, the Mountain Home offense finally started moving the ball, picking up a pair of first downs and driving deep into Greenwood territory. But ultimately, the visiting defense was just too strong, and the Bombers turned the ball over on downs at the 22-yard-line early in the second quarter.
From there, Greenwood needed just five plays to score again, three on the ground and two through the air. On first down Wilkinson ran for 11 yards, as did Richmond on the next snap, reaching the 44. He passed to Strozier for a nice gain to the home 39, then found Brewer again at the Bombers’ 17, setting up Wilkinson’s touchdown run on the next play. The extra point was true for a 27-0 Greenwood lead (10:53).
But the tank was far from empty. The Bulldogs had two more scores left in them before the half ended, and the next one was set up nicely by the defense. Junior nose guard Tyler Crossno scooped up a loose football near midfield and rumbled ahead to the Mountain Home 29, giving the GHS offense a short field. They needed just six plays to convert the turnover into points – one pass and five rushing plays.
Richmond passed to sophomore Aiden Kennon for 12 yards and Wilkinson ran three times for 17 yards to account for most of the necessary yardage. But when the home defense stiffened, from two yards out Richmond kept the ball and stretched it across the goal line for the score. A two-point pass play failed, leaving the score at 33-0 (7:36).
Perhaps demoralized, the Mountain Home offense proved lifeless once again, punting back to the Bulldogs at the GHS 17. On first down, Wilkinson ran to the 23. Three snaps later, Richmond threw to Luke Brewer to the 30 then again to Peyton Carter, reaching the 48. Richmond then hooked up with Brewer on a wide receiver screen that caught the defense by surprise, allowing the talented receiver to weave his way through the secondary for the touchdown. The kick by Hernandez made the score 40-0 with 4:12 remaining in the opening half.
But while there was no further scoring in the half, there were some entertaining moments, including three turnovers in less than 90 seconds, two by Greenwood and one by Mountain Home. The Bombers recovered a Greenwood fumble, but soon gave it back when senior defensive back Hayden Wells picked off a Mountain Home pass. But the ‘Dogs reciprocated quickly by coughing up another fumble, much to the consternation of Coach Young.
Greenwood’s starting offense did not appear in the second half, with the mercy rule in play and the clock running continuously. Likewise, most of the GHS starting defense remained sidelined, allowing the Bombers to score their only touchdown of the game on their opening possession of the third quarter. The score came after a 14-play, 69-yard drive.
The second team offense under quarterback Hunter Houston was able to move the ball in the second half, but one possession ended with another fumble. The second team defense also performed well, ending a Bombers threat with an impressive goal line stand. Moments later reserve QB Joe Trusty completed a pass to sophomore receiver Tanner McKusker for a big gain deep into Bombers’ territory. But with time short, Coach Young called for the victory formation and Trusty took a knee to run out the remaining time.
After the game, Coach Young spoke briefly with the Greenwood Dog Pound, expressing his general satisfaction with his team’s performance, especially in the first half. “That was a good win for us,” he said. “We played really well in the first half. In the second half we got some kids in that we’re looking at who can help us down the road, and we didn’t play as well as we thought we would in the second half. But there was a lot of stuff that was good tonight, and a lot of stuff that we can watch on film and get corrected.”
Asked about the play of quarterback L.D. Richmond, Young said, “[He’s] played really well the last two weeks. He does a good job distributing the ball, and I thought our receivers made plays after the catch. The offensive line was [also] good up front. [Mountain Home] was changing [their defensive look] and it confused us a little bit. But once we got it dialed in, we were pretty good.”
Regarding the performance of his defense, Young added, “[The Mountain Home] quarterback was a good runner, but our defense did a good job in the first half. We’ve just got to finish the game. We pulled [some] guys out and put our backups in, but we’ve got to play better than that.”
The Bulldogs will be on the road again next Friday at Siloam Springs in 6A West conference play. The improving Panthers are 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in league play. They beat fellow conference member Van Buren in a shootout, 43-42, but lost last week to Benton, 42-0. They also own wins over Pea Ridge (55-21) and Harrison (34-14), with their other loss coming at the hands of Class 7A Rogers (52-42).