Not that it ever really was, but the freshmen football winning streak dating back to 2019 is no longer an issue for the Junior Bulldogs, thanks to the Farmington Jr. Cardinals, winners of last Monday’s makeup game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. But the incredible 50-47 come-from-behind victory for Farmington would not have been possible without multiple Greenwood turnovers. The home team briefly led by 20 points in the first half and was up 41-28 at the break before being outscored in the second half, 22-6. The Junior Bulldogs are 4-1 on the season and won’t play again until next Thursday.
Monday’s game was originally slated for the second week of the season on September 1st, but was suspended due to inclement weather (lightning). However, Greenwood did score early in that game and carried its 6-0 led into the makeup contest which began at 5:30 p.m. The Jr. ‘Dogs kicked off with 7:04 showing on the first quarter clock.
The sky kick by Farrah Crossno was recovered by Greenwood’s Blaze McDaniel at the Farmington 41, giving the home team excellent field position and a chance to add to its lead. But a bad shotgun snap led to a big loss back to the Greenwood 45, followed by a poor punt out-of-bounds at the Cardinals’ 43. It took only six plays for the visitors to tie the game at 6-all.
Farmington’s offense was clearly populated with talented players, evidenced by the 50 points they scored against a previously unbeaten Greenwood squad. Left-handed quarterback Aiden Lester led the visiting offense with both his arm and legs, running for two scores and throwing for two more in the first half alone. He ran for one more touchdown and threw for two more in the second half and completed passes for a trio of two-point conversions. Lester scored on a 19-yard run for Farmington’s first touchdown, but the two-point try failed, leaving the game tied.
The Bulldogs would soon retake the lead, but not before giving away their next possession with the first of three fumbles in the game. Fortunately, just when the Cardinals were about to cash in on their good fortune, they also lost a fumble at the Greenwood goal line, recovered by Cody Johnson at the one. The Jr. ‘Dogs then embarked on a 14-play, 99-yard drive that put them back on top, 13-6, after Laydn Casanova’s extra point kick.
Along the way, Greenwood converted on a fourth down play deep in their own territory at the 20. Running back Wesley Raggio picked up the needed yardage on a run to the 24, moving the sticks. With the game moving into the second quarter, quarterback Cooper Goodwin passed to receiver Cooper Bland, who made the catch near midfield, broke a tackle, and streaked all the way to the visitors’ 17-yard-line. Three plays later Raggio scored from eight yards out.
Leading 13-6, the Greenwood defense made its presence felt on Farmington’s next possession when linebacker Landon Bogdon picked off a Cardinals’ pass at the visitors’ 37. Seizing the momentum, the Bulldogs went for broke on first down with Goodwin throwing deep to a wide-open Brayden Sheppard for a touchdown. Casanova’s PAT was good, and the Jr. Bulldogs led 20-6 with 5:12 left in the first half.
But the Cardinals answered back quickly, with a little help from a pass interference penalty on Greenwood. From the visitors’ 35, Aiden Lester ran a QB keeper that ended 65 yards later with a Farmington touchdown. He also completed a two-point pass, trimming the Greenwood lead to 20-14 at the 3:44 mark, just enough time for the home team to strike again.
After a short kick return by Raggio to the 18-yard-line, he caught a pass to the 26 and ran once to the 35 for a first down. After another reception by Raggio to the Farmington 45, Goodwin turned to a different target, connecting with Bland again on a big gainer to the 7-yard-line. Goodwin then ran it in for the score himself. The extra point made it 28-14.
But the fun was just getting started as the two teams combined for an unbelievable 50 points in just over five minutes at the end of the first half. The next score was by Greenwood’s defense when D-back Brayden Sheppard scooped up a loose football and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. The extra point failed, but Greenwood extended its lead to 34-14.
Then it was Farmington’s chance to score quickly, on the fifth play of their next possession. After completing a 25-yard pass to the Greenwood 18, Aiden Lester threw again for the score with 1:13 left in the quarter, then passed for the two-point conversion making the score 34-22.
Starting from their own 4-yard-line after muffing the kick return, the Bulldogs were hardly slowed, starting with a first down pass from Goodwin to Lawyer Thornsberry to the 35. Goodwin then threw to Benton Hossley for 16 yards to the visitors’ 49. The Greenwood QB next connected with Raggio out of the backfield, reaching the 19-yard-line. On the next snap, Goodwin rolled to his right and threw to Cooper Bland for the touchdown with :23 remaining. The PAT was good.
But the Cardinals completed a 65-yard possession in just four plays, the last one coming with four ticks left on the scoreboard clock, a deep desperation pass that was caught for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the teams headed to their locker rooms with Greenwood leading 41-28.
The Cardinals received the opening kick of the second half and quickly pulled within single digits of Greenwood on the scoreboard. A pass interference penalty helped advance the ball to midfield, then a pass completion by Lester moved the ball to the Bulldogs’ 29. Three plays later, Lester threw for another touchdown from 16 yards out. The Cards then ran a reverse on the two-point conversion, making the score 41-36.
In response, the Jr. ‘Dogs needed just over a minute to push their lead back to double digits. Raggio returned the kickoff from the 20 to the 33, then rushed on first down to the 39, after which Goodwin passed to Thornsberry for a nice gain to the Farmington 30. After a loss to the 34, Goodwin hooked up deep with Bland for yet another touchdown, but Greenwood’s two-point conversion try failed, leaving the score at 47-36 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, the game’s final two touchdowns were scored by the visiting Cardinals. The first one came just under three minutes later on a 43-yard pass play, though the two-point pass play failed, making the score 47-42 with 2:47 left in the third quarter. Moments later the Bulldogs fumbled away their next possession near midfield, though the Greenwood defense was able to force Farmington to punt.
Now early in the fourth quarter, Cooper Goodwin was hit and the ball came loose, recovered by the visitors at the home 42-yard-line, setting up Farmington’s winning touchdown just three plays later. A nine-yard pass was followed by a 32-yard strike to the Greenwood 1-yard-line, from where Lester ran a QB keeper for the score. He also connected on a two-point pass play, making the score 50-47.
Still, several minutes remained in the contest, certainly long enough for the Jr. ‘Dogs to mount another scoring threat, and that’s exactly what they did, driving from their own 35 to the Farmington 7-yard-line with over two minutes left to play. The big play of the possession was Goodwin’s 34-yard pass to Raggio, who made a great catch at the Cards’ 10. But a trio of running plays netted just three yards, bringing up fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard-line.
Going for the win instead of a possible tying field goal, Head Coach Luke Hales called for a pass, and Goodwin rolled to his right and fired into the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete, giving the ball back to the Cardinals on downs. Farmington was then able to run out the clock on the 50-47 victory.
After the loss, Coach Hales addressed the costly second half turnovers that hurt his team. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” he admitted, “but we did some really good things [too]. We showed we could score some points and throw it around and run it as well. But ultimately, we didn’t give ourselves a chance to finish the game by handing it to [Farmington]. So we’ll get that corrected and get back to work. It’s just something [ball security] we’ve got to work on with our kids.
“We threw it really well and ran it well also,” he repeated. “Our receivers made some plays. Cooper Bland made some big plays for us, along with Benton Hossley, and Cooper Goodwin extended plays with his legs and being a good decision-maker. But the offense put our [defense] in really bad situations by turning the ball over. But we also had an opportunity to stop [the Cardinals] right before the half and we gave up a big play. We didn’t tackle very well, and we let some [receivers] get behind us. So there were mistakes on defense that we’ll fix this week and we’ll be ready to go against Harrison.”
Asked about the 25-game winning streak, Hales said, “It was pretty neat, but we’re not really about streaks around here. That’s not what we’re interested in. We want to get better every day and win the tasks that are before us today.” Still, a winning streak that extends over the course of four seasons is quite the accomplishment and says something positive about the continuity and success of Greenwood’s junior high program.