Jr. ‘The weather has begun to cool as the calendar flipped over to a new month, but the Greenwood Junior High Bulldogs remain the same, steamrolling their way through their 2020 schedule. The latest victim was Van Buren this past Thursday at Smith-Robinson Stadium, a 36-7 thrashing. The win improved their season mark to 6-0.
They are now 4-0 in River Valley Conference play with four games remaining against Fort Smith Ramsey and Darby, Alma, and Harrison. Only the season finale against Harrison on November 5th will be played at Greenwood, the outcome likely determining the league championship. In a scheduling oddity, the junior high will enjoy an open date this next week.
The Bulldogs received the opening kick and easily advanced down the field for their first touchdown. Starting from their own 46 after a short return, running back L.J. Robins rambled for 25 yards to the visitors’ 29-yard-line. A Van Buren penalty pushed the ball forward to the 14 from where Robins carried to the 4.
After a loss to the 7, quarterback Slade Dean passed to receiver Josh Ligon for the score. Kicker Bodie Steinfeldt then added the extra point for a 7-0 Greenwood lead early in the opening period. The Jr. ‘Dogs would go on to build a 29-0 cushion at the halftime break.
The next two Greenwood scores were set up by the home defense after a pair of pass interceptions, stifling the Van Buren offense. The first pick was by Brady Mackey near midfield, returning the ball 36 yards to the visitors’ 16-yard-line. The touchdown came seconds later when Dean scrambled on first down, finding running room on the right side all the way to the end zone. Steinfeldt added the PAT for a 14-0 Greenwood lead.
On Van Buren’s next possession, Braden Skaggs intercepted a pass at the home 42, returning it to the visitors’ 21, though a penalty brought the ball back to the 39. But that hardly mattered. On the first snap, Dean found receiver Austin Mitchell near the 15, who finished the play by racing for the goal line. Steinfeldt’s kick made the score 21-0.
Van Buren finally slowed Greenwood’s offensive onslaught, as both teams traded punts twice each after the game moved into the second quarter. But on the visitors’ second kick, the punter was rushed and threw the ball away to avoid a huge loss and was flagged for intentional grounding, giving Greenwood the ball at the Van Buren 22.
With time running out on the half, it didn’t take long for the Jr. ‘Dogs to score again – just one big play – a long pass from Dean to Mitchell in the left side of the end zone. But the extra point attempt proved entertaining when a high snap forced holder Braden Skaggs to scramble to his right looking for running room or an open receiver. He quickly found teammate Peyton Presson and tossed the ball to him in traffic near the 5-yard-line.
Immediately swarmed by the Van Buren defense, it seemed the play was doomed to fail, but somehow Presson managed to stay on his feet until help arrived in the form of his teammates, who pushed the entire pile forward and across the goal line for two points. Both teams headed to their locker rooms at the half with Greenwood leading, 29-0.
Van Buren received the opening kick of the second half, but could do nothing with it, punting back to Greenwood out-of-bounds at the Bulldogs’ 46-yard-line. Another lightning-fast scoring drive followed, allowing the home team to invoke the mercy rule and shorten the second half considerably.
On first down, Dean passed to Robins for ten yards to the Van Buren 44. Presson then made a nice leaping catch at the 20 for a first down before Dean connected with Noah Chaser, who made a sensational fingertip grab in the left side of the end zone for the touchdown. The kick by Steinfeldt was good and Greenwood led 36-0.
With most of Greenwood’s top defensive players out of the game, Van Buren finally mounted a sustained scoring drive, marching 77 yards to score the visitors’ only points of the game in the waning minutes of the contest. Adding the extra point made the final score, 36-7.
“I thought we did a good job,” observed Head Coach Shannon Rhea, now back on the job after being quarantined due to possible Covid-19 exposure. “There are some things we need to get better at, but overall, we controlled the game from the start. The defense did their job by getting turnovers and shutting down the run game of Van Buren.
“We continue to do well offensively,” he continued. “I think we scored on the first play of a couple of possessions, which was nice. [Quarterback] Stone Dean continues to do a good job running the offense, and L.J. Robins has been running and catching the ball well out of the backfield. The offensive line [also] did a good job of protecting against a team that was blitzing every play.
“We had a couple of kids that [changed] positions this week to help out with depth, due to some [players] being out. I thought Cole Kindle helping us out at defensive end was big, and we had some others that stepped up on special teams [too]. That’s what makes this team pretty good. They are unselfish and do what it takes to win,” said Rhea. Kindle is also Greenwood’s backup quarterback on offense.
The GHS freshmen will play its next two games in Fort Smith after this week’s open date. The Ramsey Rams are up first on the 15th, followed by Fort Smith Darby on the 22nd. Greenwood travels to Alma on the 29th before hosting Harrison in the conference showdown the first Thursday in November, the season finale.