After an unusual bye week and four games into the 2021 season, the Greenwood Bulldogs find themselves in unfamiliar territory, now on a two-game losing skid that has them 2-2 overall and 0-1 in 6A West conference play. Their latest loss was on the road at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium against the upstart and very athletic Parkview Patriots, whose head coach (Brad Bolding) was once a GHS assistant in the late 1990s.
Ironically, current GHS head coach Chris Young was a junior high assistant during Bolding’s final season at Greenwood. Since Bolding’s arrival at Parkview five years ago, the Pats have improved greatly, and having several players with significant college offers doesn’t hurt either. Before Thursday’s game, Max Preps sports service had Parkview ranked 10th in the state of Arkansas.
For their part, the Bulldogs were coming off an upset loss at Fort Smith Northside and hoped to get back on the winning track against Parkview. “Losing isn’t fun, and we’re not going to get used to that around here,” said Young after the Northside loss. “But it reminded our kids of what they’ve got to do to win. We’ve got to finish the ball game. It also allowed us to heal. We were banged up.”
The game was played Thursday night instead of Friday due to a conflict between Parkview and Little Rock Catholic, which both use War Memorial as their home field. When both schools have home games the same week, Little Rock Catholic plays on Friday night and Parkview on Thursday night.
Prior to the game, Coach Young expressed concern about facing the Patriots in the opening week of conference play. “It’s scary to get this team right out of the gate. We haven’t seen a football team like this in a long, long time. I think they’ve got six kids with Division-I offers, five on offense, and they play a couple of those guys both ways.
“Their quarterback is committed to Ole Miss and their running back is committed to Arkansas, so they are loaded with talented football players. It’s going to be a challenge for us,” he said. Greenwood purposely scheduled an open date before the Parkview game to have extra time to prepare for the Patriots and the start of conference play.
But the open date didn’t seem to benefit the Bulldogs much, though it did allow a few players to heal some of their early season bumps and bruises. Still, several key players were out of the starting lineup, including starting quarterback Hunter Houston, who injured his leg at the end of the Northside game. Other players missing included starting defensive linemen Tyler Crossno and Landon Kilgore, both seniors, and junior running back Javon Williamson.
On the other sideline, the Patriots had several players who have received Division-I college scholarship offers, including starting quarterback Jaylon White (Ole Miss) and running back James Jointer (Arkansas), among others. Both players were huge in Parkview’s win over Greenwood, especially Jointer, who rushed for well over 100 yards and multiple touchdowns.
Given the injuries and their missing players, the Bulldogs were handicapped even before kickoff, but still believed they could compete with the highly ranked Patriots and possibly win playing on the turf that has become so familiar to them. Starting in 1998, the ‘Dogs have played 14 state championship games at War Memorial over the past 24 years, winning all but four of them (1998, 2004, 2015-16). But whatever magic they had in those earlier games did not show up last Thursday night.
Turnovers and penalties once again played a key role in the game’s outcome. Big plays were also prominent in the scoring for both teams and Greenwood had a difficult time sustaining long drives and keeping its shorthanded defense off the field. The Pats also managed the clock well, taking their time in the huddle to limit Greenwood’s opportunities on offense.
The game began with a bang as Parkview’s Willie Eackles returned the opening kick 94 yards untouched by GHS defenders, finding a lane in the middle of the field before racing down the home sideline for the score. Parkview’s speed advantage was evident early in the game. The extra point try failed, but just seconds into the game the Patriots were up 6-0.
Undaunted, the Bulldogs responded with a touchdown of their own after a quick 65-yard drive that required just four plays, set up by a long first down run by senior tailback Jake Glover, whose 61-yard scamper put the ball at the Parkview 4-yard-line. Three plays later, sophomore quarterback Slade Dean found junior receiver Aiden Kennon in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. The kick by senior Ben Moy was good and Greenwood led 7-6 just over one minute into the game.
Greenwood would lead one other time in the game, 14-13, late in the first quarter before the Patriots took charge of the contest, leading 27-14 at the half before outscoring the Bulldogs 21-14 in the second half for the 20-point victory. The Bulldogs haven’t lost two games in a season since 2014 and haven’t started 2-2 since 2010. Ironically, after that second loss in 2010, Greenwood embarked on an historic 50-game winning streak that endured until the final game of the 2013 season.
But Parkview needed only seven plays to score again and retake the lead. From their own 29 they kept the ball on the ground, completing a single pass for 21 yards to the GHS 24. Two snaps later, quarterback Jaylon White found running room through the right side all the way to the front corner of the end zone for the score. The point after was good, putting the Patriots back on top, 13-7, at the eight minute mark of the first quarter.
The teams then traded punts until Greenwood took over at its own 7-yard-line at the 5:40 mark. Two plays later a Parkview pass interception was nullified by a penalty, keeping the ball in the visitors’ hands. Two snaps after that, from the GHS 18, Slade Dean completed a pass to fellow sophomore L.J. Robins near the 40.
Robins caught the ball and zig-zagged his way across the field all the way to the Parkview 2-yard-line just short of the goal line. Two plays later senior running back Dylan Tucker scored from one yard out (4:08). The extra point was good, giving Greenwood its final lead of the game at 14-13.
As the game moved into the second quarter, the GHS defense did its job, pressuring the quarterback and causing a hurried pass that was picked off by Greenwood’s Colin Daggett. But the offense could do nothing with the opportunity and quickly punted the ball away. Again the defense came up aces, forcing another Patriots punt, but this time the GHS offense coughed up the football on a fumble at the Greenwood 17-yard-line. After a penalty, it took only one snap for Jointer to score from 22 yards out (7:42). The PAT made put the Patriots on top to stay, 20-14.
The Bulldogs escaped damage on their next possession after a deflected pass was intercepted by the Patriots near midfield. But senior defensive lineman Cole Meyers had a tackle for a loss on third down to force Parkview to punt. A few plays later, on fourth down, the Bulldogs attempted a fake punt, but kicker Noah Jantzen was smothered at the 39, well short of the first down, giving the Pats excellent field position leading to their next score.
Seven plays later the home team dented the end zone once again on a 1-yard plunge by Jointer after the Pats recovered their own fumble moments earlier at the 2-yard-line. The kick was good, and Parkview led 27-14 at the half. Headed to the locker room, Coach Young offered some brief comments to Dog Pound sideline reporter Richie Cagle.
“That’s a good football team over there with a bunch of good players,” said Young of the Patriots. “Our defense made some stops, but we’re struggling a bit offensively, turning the ball over. Every time we get a stop we turn it right back over to them, and they’ve made us pay for it. So we’ve got to play a lot better the second half, especially early on to get back into this thing.”
When play resumed, the Bulldogs scored on their opening possession of the third quarter, keeping hope alive for a second half comeback. But three consecutive touchdowns by the Patriots ended whatever chance Greenwood might have had for a late rally. Down 48-21 with nine minutes remaining, the ‘Dogs added their final score to account for their 20-point deficit.
Jake Glover returned the opening kick of the half 28 yards to the Greenwood 42. He also carried the ball on first down to the 45. From there, quarterback Slade Dean found L.J. Robins near the right sideline, and the former junior high running back caught the pass, cut across the field, eluding the Pats’ defense, and turned the play into a 55-yard touchdown. The kick by Ben Moy was good, cutting the Parkview lead to 27-20.
But James Jointer and his Patriots’ teammates were too much to overcome for a Bulldogs’ team operating at less than full strength. Jointer had consecutive scoring runs of 37 yards each and another of 13 yards over the next 17-plus minutes as the Pats put the game away.
During that forgettable stretch the Bulldogs punted the ball once and twice turned it over on downs. With just under six minutes left to play, Greenwood mounted its final scoring drive. Jake Glover returned the Parkview kick to the 30 and a facemask penalty tacked on 15 additional yards to the 45.
Senior running back Cameron Krone then carried to the 49 and Dean passed to Robins to the Patriots’ 34. After a penalty back to the 39, Dean connected with junior receiver Brett Wood who almost reached the end zone, falling short at the 4-yard-line. Three plays later Dean found senior receiver Luke Brewer on a slant pattern in the end zone for the score. Moy’s kick was true, making the final tally, 48-28.
After the game, Coach Young addressed his team on the field, then later spoke to members of the media, including the Greenwood Dog Pound. “That was a really good football team,” he said of Parkview. “They made things difficult. We had some guys out tonight, but we’ve got to put our kids in better situations. We’ve got to make some better calls and that’s on us. So we’re going to coach better next week and go [back] to work.”
Despite the disappointing loss, a couple of Bulldogs had excellent performances, including running back Jake Glover and receiver L.J. Robins. On the strength of his 61-yard run on Greenwood’s opening drive, Glover finished the game with 124 yards on 16 carries. Robins had seven catches for 182 yards, and in his first start, quarterback Slade Dean completed 15 of 30 pass attempts for 273 yards. All stats are unofficial.
After a remarkable job of holding things together in 2020 all the way to an unbeaten season and a state championship in his first year as a head coach, Chris Young now faces a different kind of challenge after back-to-back losses. Along with his excellent staff, Young must convince his team that they can rebound and regain control over their season.
One conference loss is not going to doom them, though it does lessen their margin for error. A lot of football remains on the schedule and a conference and state championship is still possible for this team, but they need to get healthy and regain some momentum starting this week at home against Mountain Home, and there’s no better time to do so than during Homecoming week. The Bulldogs will play at home the next two weeks against the Bombers and Siloam Springs Panthers.