The junior varsity Greenwood Bulldogs traveled to Jim Rowland Stadium in Fort Smith last Monday night to face the Southside Mavericks.
The GHS offense, led by junior quarterback Jace Presley, got off to a quick start as sophomore receiver L.D. Richmond caught a first down pass near the 50-yard-line. The Bulldogs then marched into Mavericks' territory, but fell short of the end zone as Southside intercepted Presley.
The Mavs, held to a three-and-out on their first possession, found the end zone on their second series with a 60-yard touchdown pass. The Southside defenders remained strong as well, intercepting their second pass in as many possessions.
Likewise, the GHS defense forced a Southside punt on the Mavericks' next series. Greenwood's Cole McDaniel came up big on third down, breaking up a would-be first down pass. While nothing was cooking for the Bulldogs' offense, the defense came up huge again, stopping Southside on fourth down.
But Presley and the Bulldogs' offense found their groove at the start of the second quarter. Sophomore receiver Jayden Jasna caught a pass, good for 30 yards, moving Greenwood to the Mavericks' 13-yard-line. The possession set up junior kicker Jackson Stewart for a 27-yard field goal, which he knocked through the uprights. With 7:25 left in the second quarter Greenwood trailed, 7-3.
But Southside responded quickly on special teams, taking the kick-off back to the house. The Mavericks missed the extra point, however, making it a 13-3 ballgame.
Greenwood got the pigskin back at their own 45-yard line, and on third-and-seven Presley kept the ball himself for the first down, moving into enemy territory. With the ball at the Southside 45, the Mavericks's defense came away with its third interception of the night. SHS had the ball at Greenwood’s 48 with 5:49 left in the second quarter.
But the GHS defense stiffened after the interception. Junior Garrett Newman had a big tackle for loss on second down making it third-and-12. One play later the Mavs' coaching staff decided to go for it on fourth down, but they would pay as Greenwood junior linebacker Leighton Johnson intercepted the ball and took it to the house. But the play was called back to the 27-yard line due to a block in the back. Greenwood’s miscues continued from there, and a fumble gave Southside the ball back.
However, the visiting offense got back on the field quickly thanks to another three-and-out by the defense. Presley then found sophomore receiver Peyton Carter down the right sideline on third down for a gain of 26 yards, moving them to the Southside 19. On fourth-and-four the Bulldogs went for it and converted as Presley found sophomore receiver Jase Strozier at the Mavs’ 8-yard-line.
Greenwood then found the end zone for the first time on the night with 27 seconds left as Jace hit junior receiver Caden Taylor over the middle for the score. Stewart converted on the PAT to make it a 13-10 ballgame just before halftime.
Greenwood got the ball to start the second half and returned the opening kick to their own 44-yard-line. On third and long, Presley completed a pass to the Mavericks' 33, followed by another completion. The Bulldogs capped off the 56-yard drive as sophomore running back Caden Franks hammered the ball in from the two-yard-line. Once again, Stewart knocked home the PAT, making it 17-13 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
The GHS defense then did its job, forcing Southside to punt, giving the visiting offense the ball at their own 34-yard-line. On the first play of the possession, Jase Strozier reeled in a pass near the 50 and turned the corner, taking it all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. A muffed snap foiled the PAT, but Greenwood led 23-13 with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Southside started its next drive from the Mavericks' 27, but two strong tackles by sophomore Connor Marvin and a sack by sophomore Beau Asher gave Greenwood the ball right back. Their offensive possession only lasted one play though, as the Bulldogs suffered their fifth turnover of the game.
Southside was forced to punt once again at the start of the fourth quarter after Newman broke up a Southside pass attempt. Both teams then stalled offensively for the rest of the game, resulting in the 23-13 Greenwood victory. The junior varsity squad is now 1-0 on the season.