Strong second half powers Bulldogs to win over Panthers

Strong second half powers Bulldogs to win over Panthers

Greenwood 49, Greenbrier 21

Photos By: Ross Fujibayashi

It was a struggle for a while, but a strong second half performance allowed the Bulldogs to remain unbeaten in conference play last Friday night at Greenbrier. After the Panthers tied the game at 21-all late in the second quarter, Greenwood rallied for one last score in the first half to take a 28-21 lead at the break, but the Bulldogs won the game, 49-21. It was the second straight week the ‘Dogs’ defense needed a shutdown second half to ensure a victory. A week earlier Greenwood led Van Buren by an identical halftime score before rolling to a 63-21 victory with a strong second half.

The Bulldogs moved to 4-0 in the 6A West and 5-1 overall after a season-opening loss at Stillwater, Oklahoma. They will enjoy an open date next Friday before diving into the meat of their schedule against Lake Hamilton, Russellville, Pulaski Academy, and Little Rock Christian. The Bulldogs are currently tied with Lake Hamilton and Pulaski Academy for the conference lead, all unbeaten in league play. Greenwood hosts Lake Hamilton on October 14th.

Friday’s game also featured the reemergence of senior running back Jake Glover who rushed for over 160 yards and five touchdowns. After proving himself to be a reliable part of Greenwood’s offense in 2021, the diminutive but speedy Glover suffered an injury that sidelined him for the second half of the season. He returned healthy this year and has been working his way back to his old form before the injury. Friday’s performance certainly highlighted his potential going forward.

Greenbrier received the opening kick, but soon had to punt as the Bulldogs’ defense forced a quick three-and-out. The punt rolled dead at the Greenwood 34. Eleven plays later the visitors dented the end zone for the first time. Senior quarterback Hunter Houston continued his fine season by completing six of his first seven passes, and the one miss was dropped by a receiver. Defensively, the Panthers were giving the Bulldogs the short stuff while trying to protect against the deep ball.

During the possession only one play went for double-digit yardage, Houston’s last pass to senior receiver Aiden Kennon for 22 yards and a big first down at the Greenbrier 10-yard-line. Glover then ran to the five and again for the touchdown. The extra point by senior kicker Steven Duran was good for a 7-0 GHS lead at the 7:20 mark of the opening period.

But the Panthers responded in kind, driving 66 yards in eight plays with the help of a pass interference penalty on the Bulldogs. The final snap of the series was a 27-yard touchdown scamper by running back Parker Roberts. The point after was good, tying the score at 7-7 (5:40).

The visitors also scored the next two touchdowns to go ahead, 21-7, and seemed on the verge of putting the game away before the host Panthers rallied back to knot the score, however so briefly near the end of the half. The Bulldogs next possession was a long one – 15 plays – and did not include a gain of more than 10 yards on any snap. Hunter Houston scored from two yards out, but the extra point failed, making the score 13-7 (1:26).

As the contest moved into the second quarter, a Greenbrier fumble enabled the visitors to score again in short order. Linebacker Evan Williams stood up the runner as the ball came loose, allowing defensive back Brady Mackey to recover it at the Greenwood 48. Eight snaps later Jake Glover scored from 10 yards out followed by Houston’s keeper for the two-point conversion, pushing the GHS lead to 21-7 (9:12).

But just when Bulldogs’ fans thought things were well in hand and their favorite team was on its way to another blowout win, the Panthers answered back with a pair of touchdowns of their own. An 11-play drive ended with a 13-yard scoring pass at the 4:49 mark of the second quarter. The PAT made it 21-14.

A questionable GHS fumble then led to another Greenbrier score. A short pass to GHS receiver L.J. Robbins ended up on the ground, barely slowing as the ball went through the junior’s hands. But somehow the nearest official ruled it to be a catch and fumble, giving the Panthers the ball at the Greenbrier 36. Four plays later the home team connected on a deep pass to their best player, receiver Carter McElhaney, for a 49-yard TD strike. The extra point tied the score at 21-21.

But with nearly three minutes left in the half, the Bulldogs weren’t about to lay down, and the offense went right back to work. Junior Peyton Presson returned the kickoff to the 37 and Hunter Houston started the possession with four consecutive pass attempts, completing three of them for 33 yards to the Panthers’ 30-yard-line. Three snaps later Houston passed to Presson for 12 yards and a first down. Another pass to Aiden Kennon reached the 13 then another to Kennon reached the 1-yard-line before Jake Glover scored the touchdown. Duran’s kick made it 28-21 at the half.

But it was the GHS defense that made the difference in the second half, keeping the Panthers away from the end zone, giving the Bulldogs’ offense a chance to rebuild an insurmountable lead with three more touchdowns. Of Greenbrier’s five second half possessions, three ended with punts and two led to fourth down plays that failed to move the chains.

Greenwood’s next score came on their opening possession of the half after a 75-yard drive that required just four plays, ending with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Houston to sophomore receiver Grant Karnes, who caught the ball near the 15 before crossing the goal line. Duran’s extra point kick was good, pushing the GHS advantage to 35-21.

With the defense tightening the screws on the Panthers, the Bulldogs scored again early in the fourth quarter on a 62-yard touchdown sprint by Glover, who exploited a gap in the defense on the left side of the line-of-scrimmage and bolted down the GHS sideline for a lightning-quick score. The extra point by Duran was good, making it 42-21 in favor of the ‘Dogs.

A similar scenario unfolded on Greenwood’s next possession, starting at their own 24. Senior running back Javon Williamson got the call on three consecutive plays and ran for 15 yards to the 39 before being replaced by Glover, who made an even more spectacular run than before. Taking the handoff, the senior plunged straight ahead into the heart of the defense and appeared to be stopped after a short gain. But in the mass of bodies, he kept fighting for yardage, refusing to go down, before executing a spin move that sprung him free. Suddenly #33 squirted from the pile and broke out into the open before streaking 63 yards for another touchdown, Greenwood’s last of the night. Duran’s kick was good with 6:44 left to play, making the final score 49-21.

Offensively, several Bulldogs made big contributions, led by Glover and quarterback Hunter Houston. Glover finished with 168 yards on just 12 carries with five touchdowns. Houston completed 38 of 46 passing attempts for 351 yards and one score. He also carried 10 times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Four receivers had at least six catches each.

Grant Karnes led the way with 13 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. Aiden Kennon added nine catches for 84 yards, while Peyton Presson had six grabs for 45 yards and L.J. Robbins snagged eight passes for 47 yards. Sophomore Isaiah Arrington had two receptions for 19 yards and Javon Williamson rushed seven times for 52 yards. All stats are unofficial.

After Friday’s win, Head Coach Chris Young had a few words to say to Greenwood Dog Pound sideline reporter Richie Cagle. Young focused on the difference between the first half and second half, citing the inconsistency of his team, especially on defense. “We’ve got to put it all together and come out strong,” he said. “[Greenbrier] has some good football players over there. They throw and catch it really well. But we’ve got to get more consistent as a team, because our schedule is really [about] to pick up.”

Asked about the open date and the looming contest with Lake Hamilton, the coach said, “We’re going to give the kids a little time off this week, and it gives us a little extra time [to prepare] for Lake Hamilton. They run something [offensively] that we don’t normally see, so we need some extra days to prepare for those guys.”

The Wolves have one of the most potent running offenses in Class 6A, mixing things up with different formations, providing opposing defenses with quite the challenge, though the ‘Dogs have done well against Lake Hamilton in the past, including a surprising 35-0 victory last season. In fact, Lake Hamilton has never beaten Greenwood in seven tries, and due to conference realignment, they must play at Greenwood for the second consecutive year.

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