‘Dogs down Bruins; headed back to the Rock again!

‘Dogs down Bruins; headed back to the Rock again!

Greenwood 56, Pulaski Academy 26

The Greenwood Bulldogs just keep on keeping on, knocking down every opponent in their path leading to Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium and next Friday’s Class 6A state championship game. Their latest victims were the Bruins of Pulaski Academy this past Friday night at Smith-Robinson Stadium, a convincing 56-26 GHS victory. It was the second time in a month that the two 6A West teams had played. Greenwood (12-0) also won the earlier game by a similar margin, 58-33.

The Bulldogs will now prepare to take on another familiar foe in the Little Rock Christian Warriors, also members of the 6A West conference. Greenwood defeated the Warriors in their regular season finale, 56-39, to claim the outright league title and earn the league’s #1 seed, with LR Christian finishing second and Pulaski Academy third.

Along with Benton from the 6A East, those four teams have been the cream of the crop in Class 6A all season. LR Christian defeated Benton this past Friday to earn a rematch with the Bulldogs, this time for all the marbles in the state championship game. Kickoff Friday night is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by the Arkansas Public Broadcasting System.

The Bruins received the opening kick last Friday night, but soon faced fourth down needing five yards to move the chains. In typical Bruins’ fashion, Head Coach Anthony Lucas chose not to punt, but their fourth down pass attempt fell incomplete, giving Greenwood the ball in great field position at the visitors’ 33-yard-line. Eight plays later the Bulldogs scored the first of their eight touchdowns.

Running back Brayedan Davis got eight yards on first down to the 25 before quarterback Kane Archer threw to Isaiah Arrington at the 17. Archer then passed to L.J. Robins, reaching the 4-yard-line. But the Bruins’ defense stiffened and eventually brought up fourth-and-goal for the Bulldogs inside the one before Archer finally carried in for the touchdown. The extra point kick was good by Bodey Steinfeldt, making the score 7-0 (8:27).

Pulaski Academy started its next possession at its own 20 and drove deep into Greenwood territory before disaster struck for the Bruins and GHS fans leapt to their feet erupting in cheers. From the home 27, the Bruins tried a short sideline pass that was deftly picked off by GHS defensive back Brady Mackey, who never broke stride and returned it 88 yards for a defensive touchdown. Steinfeldt’s kick made it 14-0 (3:30).

But the visitors responded quickly with their first score. From their own 20, the Bruins completed a pass between the hash marks near midfield and the receiver outran the GHS defensive pursuit all the way to the end zone. But the Bruins’ two-point conversion attempt failed, keeping the score at 14-6 with 2:24 left in the opening period. However, the Bulldogs would score three more times before the end of the half for a 35-14 advantage at the break.

The first of several onside kickoff attempts by the Bruins was covered by the Bulldogs at the home 49, again giving the GHS offense a short field with which to work. Three plays later from the Bruins’ 46, Kane Archer threw to Peyton Presson for a nice gain to the 25-yard-line, plus a personal foul penalty on the defense, moving the ball half the distance to the goal line. From the 12 and facing third down, Archer spotted receiver Grant Karnes streaking across the back of the end zone with a step on the defensive back. The pass appeared to be slightly overthrown, but Karnes reached out high with his right hand and grabbed the ball with ease for the touchdown. The extra point kick made it 21-6 (:03).

The game’s next score was set up by a GHS defensive stand and a shanked punt by Pulaski Academy, with the ball sailing out-of-bounds at the visitors’ 27-yard-line. A pass from Kane Archer to Isaiah Arrington reached the 21, but two snaps and one penalty later the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-nine at the 26, too far away for a field goal try and too close for a punt. Archer then lofted a deep pass into the end zone for L.J. Robins and a touchdown. Steinfeldt’s kick was good with 10:08 left in the second quarter and Greenwood led, 28-6.

The defense also set up the Bulldogs’ next scoring chance, causing the Bruins to give up possession of the ball on downs at the home 41-yard-line. But after reaching the Bruins’ 3-yard-line the drive stalled and Head Coach Chris Young turned to Bodey Steinfeldt for the 20-yard field goal try, which was good. However, a penalty on Pulaski Academy moved the ball inside the 2-yard-line and Young decided to go for broke, taking the three points off the scoreboard, sending his offense back onto the field. But Kane Archer’s fourth down keeper fell short of the goal line, giving the ball back to the Bruins.

Moving the ball to the 34-yard-line, Pulaski Academy completed another deep pass over the middle for a 66-yard touchdown, and this time the two-point conversion was good, making the score 28-14 with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter. The Bruins’ onside kick was then recovered by the Bulldogs at the Greenwood 36, setting up the last scoring drive of the half.

Archer carried to the GHS 47 on first down before Brayedan Davis ran twice to the Bruins’ 42. Archer then passed to Robins to the 32 before Davis carried twice to the 22. A pass to Grant Karnes reached the 13 and a penalty on the defense moved the ball to the 8-yard-line. After Davis ran again to the five, Archer fired a bullet into the end zone that was caught one-handed by L.J. Robins for the touchdown, mimicking the earlier catch by Karnes. The kick made the score 35-14 at the half.

The Bulldogs received the opening kick of the second half, another onside attempt by the Bruins recovered by Greenwood at its own 46. On first down, Davis rumbled to the visitors’ 49. Moments later a pass interference penalty on the defense moved the ball to the Bruins’ 36. Next, Archer passed to Robins at the 20 and to Davis, reaching the 14. Archer then kept the ball around right end all the way to the end zone. The extra point kick was good, making the score 42-14 (9:50).

But the Pulaski Academy players still had some fight left in them and rallied for their third touchdown, driving 70 yards in eight plays, aided by a personal foul penalty against Greenwood. The touchdown came on a 1-yard QB keeper, but the extra point kick sailed wide of the uprights, making the score 42-20 at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter.

But two more quick GHS scores soon put the game away for the Bulldogs. On the subsequent onside kick attempt by the Bruins, the bouncing ball was scooped up by Grant Karnes near the midfield stripe and returned down the Bruins’ sideline all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. Steinfeldt’s kick was good, and Greenwood led 49-20.

On the next Pulaski Academy possession, Greenwood defensive back Braden Skaggs snagged an interception at the home 36-yard-line, returning it to the visitors’ 23. Three plays later Archer completed a 20-yard pass to Isaiah Arrington for the Bulldogs’ final touchdown. The point after was good, invoking the mercy rule at 56-20 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.

The game’s last score came on Pulaski Academy’s next possession, an 81-yard drive in 12 plays, the last of which was a one-yard scoring run. A high snap on the extra point allowed Greenwood’s Brady Pettigrew time to penetrate the line and block the kick, making the final score 56-26 with just under nine minutes left to play with the clock running.

The Bulldogs received the Bruins’ kick, covering it at the home 48, but chose to run out the clock after driving to the Pulaski Academy 7-yard-line. Backup quarterback Cooper Goodwin took a knee three consecutive times to end the game, sending the Bulldogs to their eighth state championship game in the past nine seasons.

Unofficially, Kane Archer had another big game. The GHS quarterback was responsible for six touchdowns, four passing and two rushing. He threw for 206 yards on 19 completions out of 23 attempts. He also rushed six times for 37 yards and two touchdowns. L.J. Robins was his favorite target with eight catches for 103 yards and two scores. Grant Karnes had five receptions for 28 yards and two touchdowns, one receiving and one on the kick return. Isaiah Arrington also had four grabs for 40 yards and a score while Peyton Presson had one catch for 21 yards. Brayedan Davis rushed 17 times for 54 yards and had a pair of receptions as well.

The Bulldogs now return to the state title game for the fourth consecutive year, having lost in their last two appearances to El Dorado (2021) and Pulaski Academy (2022). In both contests Greenwood was severely hampered by injuries before and during those games, while the 2023 squad is remarkably healthy after 12 games, according to Coach Young.

In his post-game comments, Young praised his team for making it back to the championship game, something he has done in each of his first four seasons as head coach after taking over for the legendary Rick Jones. As a coach, Young has been present for every championship won by the Bulldogs since their first in the year 2000 under then head coach Ronnie Peacock.

“I proud of our kids,” said Young. “They’ve worked hard this year, and [they] get to celebrate another trip to War Memorial. We’re spoiled around here. These seniors get to make their third consecutive trip to War Memorial and they’ve got some unfinished business.” This is the second time Greenwood has been to four consecutive state title games. The first such run occurred during the first four seasons under Rick Jones (2004-07) ending with a three-peat of championships (2005-07).

Asked about the team’s offensive performance, Young remarked, “We made some mistakes tonight, but I don’t think we punted. We made a couple great catches with our wide receivers, and I thought we were consistent with Brayedan [Davis] running the ball. L.J. [Robins] had a great night, and Grant [Karnes] and Isaiah [Arrington]. There’s just so many weapons. But we’ve got to get better at short yardage and call better plays.

“Defensively, if we don’t give up the two long passes in the first half, it’s not even that close. So I’m proud of our kids and I appreciate Coach [Josh] Holloway and his preparation. His special teams were unbelievable. He had our kids prepared, and to see Grant [Karnes] recover that onside kick and go score with it.”

Asked about the defensive line, Young said, “The last time we played [Pulaski Academy] our kids kind of got tired, so Coach [Jason] Gill and Coach [Hunter] Moreton came up with a plan to rotate those guys and try to keep them fresh, and I think it paid off,” he said. Gill is the team’s defensive coordinator and Moreton is the defensive line coach.

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