There’s nothing quite like ‘Home Sweet Home’. That seems to be the refrain for the Junior Bulldogs after their 42-7 blowout victory over the Ramsey Rams last Thursday at Greenwood’s Smith-Robinson Stadium. The game was also the River Valley Conference opener for the defending 2018 champs.
After starting the season on the road, winning 14-6 at Shiloh Christian and losing 35-19 at North Little Rock, the Jr. ‘Dogs returned home to beat a good Russellville team, 27-10, before notching their third victory of the season at home over Fort Smith Ramsey.
The team has scored 62 points in its last two home games compared to just 33 points in its two road contests. Some of that difference can be attributed to the strength of the opposition and the proposition that the team has played better as the season has unfolded. But it’s always nice to play in familiar surroundings in front of friends and family members.
Greenwood will get another chance to play before the home folks next Thursday when they entertain the Chaffin Cougars, also a RVC contest. But three of their final five games will be on the road.
“It’s a big game next week,” said Greenwood Head Coach Shannon Rhea. “We had a great eighth grade game with them last year. We were down and had to come back.
“Chaffin has two kids that can really run,” he added. “They’re the fastest kids we’ll see expect maybe for North Little Rock. It’ll be a good game and a good crowd hopefully.”
Ramsey received the opening kick and started its first possession in good field position at its own 43. But the Rams coughed up the football on their first snap. The pigskin was recovered by Greenwood’s Hunter Stockton at the visitors’ 38.
After a penalty to the 42, the home offense wasted little time in driving for its first score. On second down, quarterback Hunter Houston passed to running back Javon Williamson to the 34. Another pass went to Aiden Kennon, reaching the 26 and moving the sticks.
Houston then threw to Adian Gray for seven yards to the 19. Williamson then ran to the 15 before Houston kept the football around right end for the touchdown. The extra point kick was no good, leaving Greenwood with a 6-0 lead (5:51).
As they’ve done for most of the season, the ‘Dogs defense continued to clamp down early, forcing a quick punt by the Rams, giving the ball back to the Greenwood offense at the Ramsey 30 after a short punt.
On first down Houston connected with Kennon again for a nice gain down to the 4-yard-line. Williamson then scored on a run up the middle. The extra point was good by J.T. Stanfill for a 13-0 Greenwood lead (4:05).
Another Ramsey punt quickly followed, but the kick was partially blocked and hit a Greenwood player before being recovered by the Rams at their own 28. Yet, three plays later the home defense came up big with the first of three pass interceptions in the game, this one by eighth grader Braden Skaggs, who added a nice return to the Rams’ 10.
It didn’t take long to score. Javon Williamson took the handoff on the next snap and fought his way through the middle of the Ramsey defense until he finally crossed the goal line with a little help from his teammates. The kick failed again, leaving the score at 19-0 still in the opening quarter (1:14).
The two squads then traded punts as the game moved into the second period. From deep in their own territory the Rams suffered another pass interception, this one by Tommy Lawyer, who caught the ball at the 18 and carried it in for a Greenwood touchdown. Stanfill’s kick was good, making the score 26-0 (5:18).
But the Bulldogs weren’t finished, scoring once more before the half. Starting from their own 45, the Jr. ‘Dogs marched 55 yards in eight plays for their fifth touchdown. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Houston to Williamson down the home sideline. The PAT was good for a 33-0 lead at the 1:48 mark.
A bobble on the ensuing kickoff left the Rams in bad shape at their 5-yard-line, which only got worse as the Greenwood defense saw opportunity and had two consecutive tackles for losses back to the one.
Then the Rams got lucky on third down when a loose football was picked up in the end zone, preventing a possible safety or a Greenwood defensive touchdown. The Ramsey runner then found running room around left end and all the way down the Greenwood sideline for a touchdown, officially 99 yards. The extra point made it 33-7 at the half.
The Bulldogs added one more offensive touchdown in the second half and one more defensive interception, the latter setting up the former. Skaggs picked off his second pass of the game and returned it over 20 yards to the Ramsey 17.
Four snaps later, facing fourth-and-11, quarterback Storm Scherrey passed to Hunter Houston over the middle near the 5-yard-line. Houston secured the ball and traversed the remaining distance to the end zone. The extra point then made it 40-7 at the 5:02 mark of the third quarter.
The Greenwood defense accounted for the final two points on Ramsey’s next possession. After another botched kickoff return and good coverage by the Bulldogs, the Rams started their possession at their own 13. When the series stalled, the punt snap was bobbled in the end zone and recovered by Greenwood for the safety.
After the victory Coach Rhea talked about the win, starting with special teams, both good and bad.
“I thought we did a real good job on our kickoff team,” he said. “We pinned them down a lot inside the 20. I was proud of that bunch. They’re continuing to get better. We’ve got to work on our PATs a little bit, but I thought overall we had a real good game.”
The coach was also pleased with his defense. “We did a good job getting turnovers,” he added. “Our defense has been flying around. They’ve been getting to the ball. I’m proud of their effort.”
Asked about his continuing use of two quarterbacks, Rhea said of Houston and Scherrey, “They’re both doing good things. They make the other team work. Storm is real good at rolling out [while] Hunter is real good at reading things. They’re both going to be playing quarterback for us.”
Rhea also talked about his team’s lack of depth, partly due to numbers and partly due to injury.
“We’re kind of banged up,” he admitted. “We had a couple guys out tonight. We’ve got one (Ty Griffith) that’s probably out for the season and another one (Harrison Adams) out a couple of weeks because of a sprained ankle.
“But we had some eighth graders that we pulled up and they did a good job. One of them (Skaggs) had two picks. We’re probably going to keep them up because we need some depth and they know what to do. They’re probably going to help us more on defense than anything – give some guys some breaks so we can keep them fresher,” said Rhea.
Before the season started Rhea expressed some concern about team depth because the ninth grade roster is smaller this year than in previous seasons, made worse by a handful of players that moved away during the summer.