Head Coach Shannon Rhea and his staff and players continue to roll through the 2021 season without a hiccup. The Jr. Bulldogs improved to 4-0 last Thursday night after a dominant showing at home against Fort Smith’s Southside junior high Mavericks. Greenwood had earlier wins over Shiloh Christian, Russellville, and Fort Smith Northside junior high.
The GHS freshmen scored the first five times they had the football in the opening half for a 35-0 lead, invoking the mercy rule for the final 16 minutes. The Greenwood defense also did not allow a first down through the first two periods. So far this season, the defense is allowing eight points per contest while the offense is scoring almost 44 points a game.
Southside kicked off to begin Thursday’s River Valley Conference game, a short kick that was covered at the Greenwood 44. Two snaps later, quarterback Kane Archer handed off to tailback Jeremy Lawyer, who found running room around right end and down the visitors’ sideline all the way to the end zone for the 55-yard touchdown. The extra point kick by Zachery Edwards was good, making the score 7-0 less than a minute into the game.
The home defense then held Southside to just one yard in three plays and forced the game’s first punt, giving the ball back to the Greenwood offense at the 5:37 mark. From their own 34, the Jr. Bulldogs constructed a nine-play drive for their second touchdown, surviving a fumble and a penalty that nullified a 24-yard TD pass from Archer to Isiah Arrington.
Grant Karnes fell on the loose football to retain possession for Greenwood at the Southside 37. After the touchdown was called back, Greenwood scored one snap later from the 27 on a pass from Archer to Karnes at the goal line. The kick was good and the home team’s lead increased to 14-0 with 3:05 left in the opening quarter.
A misplay on the ensuing kickoff gave the visitors the football at their own 7-yard-line, setting up Greenwood’s next score. Unable to move the ball, the Southsiders were forced to punt from their own end zone, allowing Daniel Burton to field the ball for Greenwood at the Mavericks 33. Seconds later he was in the end zone after finding a seam through the middle of the defense, running unmolested for the touchdown. The kick by Edwards was good for a 21-0 Greenwood lead (1:17).
The visitors’ next punt rolled dead at the Greenwood 42 early in the second quarter. A pass from Archer to Arrington netted eight yards to the 50 on first down. On the next snap, Archer avoided defensive pressure to get off a wobbly pass downfield to Grant Karnes neared the 20-yard-line. The ball sailed high, but Karnes outjumped the defender for the catch, then made his way to the end zone. The extra point try was blocked, leaving the score 27-0 with 6:24 left in the half.
But the GHS freshmen weren’t finished scoring, adding one more touchdown before halftime, then one additional score in the third quarter. Their fifth score of the first half came at the 2:42 mark before the break at the end of a short possession following yet another Southside punt, giving Greenwood the ball at the visitors’ 33-yard-line.
On third down, an 11-yard pass completion by Archer to Arrington moved the sticks at the Southside 19. Archer then hooked up with a wide-open Daniel Burton over the middle for the touchdown. The Greenwood QB then found Arrington open in the end zone for the two-point conversion to invoke the 35-point mercy rule.
Greenwood’s Radley O’neal picked off a Southside pass on the visitors’ next possession, but his long return was partially nullified by a penalty on the Jr. Bulldogs after the interception. With only a minute remaining, the home offense was unable to do much and went to the locker room with a five-touchdown lead.
The freshmen ‘Dogs scored on their first offensive series in the second half after holding Southside and forcing another punt, giving Greenwood the ball at its own 39. It took five plays, the first four of which netted just 13 yards to the Southside 48. On the fifth snap Archer handed off to Samuel Burton, who found running room down the Greenwood sideline for the game’s final touchdown. Edwards added the extra point, making the final score 42-0.
Coach Rhea and his staff were able to get all their players in the game over the final two quarters, giving the starters some rest and rewarding the reserves with some playing time. With the clock running almost continuously, the Bulldogs only had the football for just one possession after their last touchdown. After the game, Coach Rhea talked about his team’s fourth victory and first conference win.
“We played pretty good,” said the coach. “We got after the ball [defensively] and gang tackled [well]. They were trying to take some shots on us, and our secondary was in good [position] and we got some pressure on their quarterback. We were [also] making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which is good. When we do it right, we’re pretty hard to run on.
“We made some big plays on offense, had some good passes, and moved the ball down the field and scored pretty quick,” he added. “[Southside] had five guys in the box, and we had to run on that. They were kind of giving it to us, and we did a good job blocking on the edges and got outside.
We [also] got everybody in the game, which is good. They’ve been working hard too, and hopefully we can do that [again] later in the year. But it was nice to do it tonight, because they deserve the playing time,” said Rhea.
As for the upcoming schedule, the coach added, “We’ve got three big games in a row. Next week we’re at Northside, then we have Parkview on October 14th at Morrilton, then on the road at Harrison. That’s three tough games coming up. We’ll see what happens.”
Rhea also talked about Peyton Sterling, the only significant injury concern at the moment for the Jr. ‘Dogs. “He’s a linebacker and we also put him on the defensive line at times,” said the coach. “He’s a player. He made a lot of tackles for us against Northside, so we’re going to miss him.” Sterling is sidelined with a foot injury, but hopes to return in a few weeks.
Next Thursday’s River Valley Conference contest will be played at Mayo-Thompson stadium on the campus of Fort Smith Northside High School and will be the second meeting this season between the two teams. Greenwood hosted and defeated the Jr. Grizzlies just last week, 49-21, in a non-conference game. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be live-streamed on Greenwood Sports Center.