Injury-riddled Bulldogs return to Smith-Robinson for homecoming win over Mountain Home

Injury-riddled Bulldogs return to Smith-Robinson for homecoming win over Mountain Home

Photos By: TJ Adams & Ross Fujibayashi

Needing a victory in the worst way after consecutive road losses, the Greenwood Bulldogs welcomed the Mountain Home Bombers to Smith-Robinson Stadium last Friday evening and handed the visitors a 31-7 loss. The contest also served as Greenwood’s 2021 football homecoming with Queen Londyn Jasna and her court honored before the game.

The much-needed “W” came despite the absence of at least half-a-dozen starters for Head Coach Chris Young and his staff. The injury bug has hit the Bulldogs hard over the past few weeks, thinning the defensive line, sidelining the team’s top two quarterbacks, plus season-ending knee injuries for two offensive linemen, among others.

Greenwood was also without the services of running back Javon Williamson for yet another week while senior Luke Brewer, the team’s top receiver, also sat out as a precaution. The ‘Dogs played their third and fourth string quarterbacks against the Bombers, and both players performed well under the circumstances.

Before the game, Coach Young talked about the loss at Little Rock Parkview. “We walked on the field in pre-game and the Ole Miss coaching staff comes up and introduces themselves. I told our coaches, ‘They’ve got some special kids over there [at Parkview]. But we didn’t play our best. We had opportunities. We were up 14-13 with the ball and turned it over, and we can’t give a team that talented [extra] plays. So it’s back to the drawing board this week.”

As for the play of backup QB Slade Dean against the Patriots, Young said, “We could not have put a sophomore in a worse situation against a super talented team, and we did not do a good job up front protecting him. He got banged up early and fought through it. He broke his hand, probably in the first quarter, but he didn’t say a word. I was really proud of his toughness. Hopefully he will be back in three or four weeks.

“Cole Kindle will get the start tonight. He played quarterback in junior high and had some success and has done a good job in the JV games the past two weeks. So we’re confident. We had a good week of practice. Then we’ve got Storm Scherrey and Noah Jantzen, and those guys are available as well. Both have experience at quarterback. We’re going to find the guy with the hot hand and we’re going to ride him. But we’ll get Hunter [Houston] back pretty soon [too]. We’re getting healthy and that’s what’s got to happen.”

As for last Friday’s opponent, the coach said, “Mountain Home is a well-coached team. They got a new coach last year and we played them twice, once in the regular season and in the playoffs. But they graduated quite a few [players] and have a lot of new guys. They like to run the ball and have a couple [players] that can hurt you. But we’ve got to make first downs and set the tempo. We’ve got to be fast on offense. We know we’ll have to run the ball with our young quarterbacks out there.

“I think the kids are confident in themselves,” he added. “They know we haven’t played our best the last two games, but they also know we’ve played two really talented football teams. We’ve just got to come out and play well tonight. It’s about ourselves and not the opponent. We’re going to get after them.”

With junior starter Hunter Houston out with a leg injury and sophomore Slade Dean sidelined with a broken hand, it fell to Cole Kindle to take the reins of the offense against the Bombers, who entered the game with a 1-3 record. The sophomore QB acquitted himself well on the game’s opening possession, leading his teammates on a 12-play, 56-yard scoring drive that included converting on a two fourth down plays to keep the possession alive.

Junior kick returner Aiden Kennon brought back the opening kickoff 14 yards to the GHS 44, and senior running back Cameron Krone got three yards on first down to the 47. Kindle then completed his first pass attempt to sophomore receiver Peyton Presson to the Bombers’ 49. Two short runs and a pair of penalties later the Bulldogs were still at the Mountain Home 48, then senior tailback Jake Glover rambled 12 yards to the 36, bringing up fourth-and-three.

After a timeout, Kindle rolled to his right and threw a strike to fellow sophomore L.J. Robins for the first down at the 30. Three plays later, after a QB sack at the 36, Kindle connected with Aiden Kennon at the 22, bringing up yet another fourth down play. But Jake Glover reached the 11-yard-line on the next snap, moving the sticks, setting up the touchdown on the next snap, a handoff to senior running back Dylan Tucker, who powered his way up the middle for the score. The kick by senior Ben Moy was good, making the score 7-0 at the 7:58 mark of the opening quarter.

But the Bombers responded with a touchdown of their own to knot the score at 7-7 just over four minutes later. The nine-play drive ended with a deep pass down the visitors’ sideline good for 46 yards and six points. The extra point was true, but it would be the last point Mountain Home would score as the GHS defense tightened its grip on the Bombers over the final three quarters of play. Greenwood led 24-7 at the half before adding one final touchdown late in the game.

Over the next eight minutes the Bulldogs had three more possessions and scored each time, building their 17-point cushion at the intermission. Their next score came on a 26-yard field goal by Ben Moy after an eight-play drive from their own 43 to the Mountain Home 9-yard-line. The biggest play of the possession was a 23-yard scamper by Jake Glover from midfield to the Bombers’ 28. The senior also had four other runs totaling 21 yards during the drive.

The field goal came with just over a minute left in the opening period and made the score 10-7. The Bombers then picked up a couple first downs on their next offensive series, aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Greenwood, but ultimately were forced to punt, the kick sailing out-of-bounds at the GHS 45 early in the second quarter.

 After a penalty moved the ball back five yards, Kindle threw a swing pass to Robins for a nice gain to the Mountain Home 39. Four snaps later, Dylan Tucker converted a fourth-and-one at the Bombers’ 28, moving the sticks. Kindle then passed to Bryce Caldwell at the 14, penetrating the red zone. Three plays later Glover muscled his way into the end zone from six yards out. The extra point was good for a 17-7 GHS lead (8:57).

The next GHS possession and score came quickly and at the hands of the defense. After the kickoff, Mountain Home started at its own 33, but ran only four plays before disaster struck in the form of a deflected pass and interception return for a touchdown. The receiver made contact with the ball at the 40, but did not catch it, interrupted by the simultaneous arrival of Greenwood’s Landon Nelms. The sophomore defensive back made the hit and the ball popped almost straight up in the air, giving senior linebacker Colt Owenby time to run under it at the 36 for the clean pick with a clear path to the end zone. After the celebration, Moy’s extra point kick was good, making the halftime score 24-7.

The remaining 7:28 of the half was mostly consumed by the Bombers’ 56-yard drive that reached the GHS 24 before stalling on a failed fourth down play. Both sidelines then emptied as players and coaches headed to their respective locker rooms. On his way off the field, Coach Young spoke briefly with Dog Pound sideline reporter Richie Cagle.

“We’ve got some guys stepping up and making plays,” said the coach. “[The defense] made a big stop there at the end [of the half]. But we’ve got to be more physical on the line. We can’t go backwards. And when we get the opportunity on offense we’ve got to put [more] points on the board.”

But scoring points proved to be difficult in the second half for both teams. The third quarter was scoreless with both squads trading five punts, two for the Bombers and three for Greenwood. The Bulldogs caught a break near the 4:30 mark of the period when their first punt was muffed by the Mountain Home and recovered by GHS junior Evan Williams. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty negated Greenwood’s excellent field position at the visitors’ 47. Unable to move the ball, another punt soon followed.

In fact, the entire second half was marred by multiple penalties on both teams, many for 15 yards, including more flags for unsportsmanlike conduct, two pass interference penalties, holding and more. As the game moved into the fourth quarter, the Bombers were on the move in Greenwood territory, but fell short on fourth down at the 18 after a failed pass into the end zone. From there, the Bulldogs finally put together a sustained drive that resulted in their final touchdown.

A pair of short runs moved the ball to the 25 from where Kindle found a sliding Bryce Caldwell at the 48 for the reception and a first down. After the play, Mountain Home was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball to the visitors’ 37. Glover then ran to the 34 and Kindle threw to Peyton Presson at the 27, moving the first down marker again.

Kindle was then replaced by junior Storm Scherrey at quarterback, who promptly ran to the 25. An incompletion and QB sack followed, leaving the ball at the 35 facing fourth-and 18. Scherrey then fired a pass downfield to Aiden Kennon, who made a terrific two-handed overhead catch in traffic for the first down at the 14.

Another sack followed at the 23, but two snaps later, facing second-and-17, Scherrey connected with L.J. Robins over the middle reaching the 12-yard-line, still not enough for a first down. But the Bombers helped out with a pair of critical penalties, another unsportsmanlike conduct and a face mask call on consecutive plays, moving the ball to the visitors 1-yard-line. Jake Glover then scored the game’s final touchdown with 3:45 remaining to play. The extra point was good, making the final score 31-7. After the win, Coach Young met with members of the media on the field.

The first question dealt with the Bulldogs’ return to Smith-Robinson Stadium for only their second home game this season. “It’s been a long time,” said Young. “It’s good to be back here with our fans. We miss this place. It’s good getting back on the field to get a win tonight. We’ve got so many guys out. But I was really proud of them. [Quarterback] Cole Kindle stepped up. He hadn’t had a lot of snaps and he just managed the game and protected the ball. I was really proud of Cole.”

Young then admitted that the offensive staff kept the game plan simple for Kindle and backup Storm Scherrey, who took several snaps in the second half. Only a sophomore, Kindle is also listed as a defensive end, while Scherrey, a junior, normally starts at safety. Both have played quarterback in the past in junior high.

“Obviously we were very cautious in play calling to make sure we put Cole in the best situations possible. We had to go pretty vanilla, but I thought he handled it well. He made some good throws and just managed the game. We told him that he didn’t have to win it for us, he just had to take care of the ball, and I thought he did exactly that tonight.”

The coach also spoke about the unusual rash of injuries that have plagued his team in the first half of the season. A coach for over two decades, he acknowledged that this is unprecedented in his career at Greenwood. But as the son of a legendary coach himself, Young also reminded fans that injuries are part of the game, and it’s up to healthy, sometimes younger players to take up the slack. Injuries test the mettle of any team and help to develop depth.

“We had five sophomores at times on offense, and I’m proud of them,” he continued. “And then the defense. We challenged those guys at halftime, and I thought they played great the second half. It was a step in the right direction. We’ve got a chance to get several guys back next week and we’ve got to get better, but I think we’ll have a chance to do that.”

Asked about the defensive line, the coach was also optimistic about the return of his two missing seniors. “Those guys are heading in the right direction too. We’re close. [Tyler] Crossno and [Landon] Kilgore have been limited the last three weeks, but they did some running this week, and Crossno actually played two snaps tonight. Hopefully, next week they will be ready to go.”

One bright spot for the Bulldogs these past couple weeks has been the play of sophomore receiver L.J. Robins, a former running back in junior high. Coach Young had some high praise for his emerging receiver, comparing him to a former GHS great who went on to star for the University of Arkansas and spent a brief time in the NFL.

“L.J. does some stuff that reminds you of Drew Morgan,” said his coach. “He has the ability to make plays after the catch. He loves the game. He wants to be on the field, and he wants the ball in his hands.”

As for the plethora of injuries that have beset his team, Young said, “Yeah, we’re banged up. I’ve never seen anything like it. We lost two more kids this week. Corbin Webb, our senior left tackle, tore his ACL [against Parkview] and Jackson Hudnall, our sophomore backup center tore his [ACL] on Tuesday in practice. So it’s been unfortunate with all the injuries, but it’s next guy up, and our kids played great tonight as a great example of that.

“[Injuries] are an excuse, and we’re not going to make excuses. We’re going to put the next guy in there and we’re going to coach him and he’s got to execute. But it was a good night for Cole [Kindle] and the rest of the Bulldogs. It was good getting back home and playing in front of our great crowd. It’s good to win.”

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