It was a dreary couple of days for GHS football last week, and it wasn’t just the three days of overcast skies and slow, steady rain. It started with last Thursday’s 21-13 loss at Harrison by the freshmen Bulldogs and ended Friday night with the top-ranked varsity Bulldogs being upset at Benton, 45-38.
It really is true that you can’t win them all, it just seems that way for Greenwood football during the Rick Jones era. After all, it was only the 25th loss for the Bulldogs since Jones (182-25) arrived in 2004.
Do the math. That’s pretty darn good – a winning percentage of 88%. No wonder there are eight state championship banners hanging in the rafters at Greenwood, all won since 2005.
On the flip side, sometimes losing can be beneficial to a team. It reminds players that they are only human after all. It introduces a sense of humility and reminds players and coaches alike why they don’t like losing.
A loss is also a slice of realism that mimics life off the gridiron. No one wins all the time, not even Donald Trump, though he might be loath to admit it. Real success comes from being able to get up after a loss and return to work with a renewed sense of purpose. There’s no doubt the Bulldogs will do just that, both the freshmen and the varsity.
Head Coach Shannon Rhea and his staff knew they were in for a fight when they made the long trip to Crooked Creek last Thursday. They knew the weather would be cool and damp and the unbeaten Jr. Goblins were itching to take down the defending River Valley Conference champs. They were right on both counts.
Harrison’s multi-faceted running game proved to be almost unstoppable, allowing the home team to control the ball and run the clock. Greenwood had the football only twice on offense in the second half, scoring both times, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the eight-point loss.
The visitors received the opening kick and started with good field position at the Harrison 49. But the offense sputtered out of the gate, also hampered by a penalty, and had to kick the ball away. Aiden Gray hustled down the field and touched the ball down at the Goblins’ 1-yard-line.
But eight rushing plays later Harrison scored on a 56-yard dash down the middle of the field through the heart of the Greenwood defense. The extra point made it 7-0.
Another Bulldogs’ punt followed after a quick three-and-out, and Harrison’s run-dominant offense went right back to work, driving 67 yards for another touchdown on a 16-yard sprint.
Fortunately for the visitors, Harrison was flagged for a holding penalty, pushing the Goblins back to the 19. The Greenwood defense then rallied and stopped the drive at the 16, with the aid of another Harrison penalty.
But that only delayed the inevitable. Forcing another Bulldogs’ punt, Harrison started with good field position at the Greenwood 45 and struck quickly with a 38-yard run to the seven before scoring three plays later from one yard out. The kick made it 14-0 at the half.
The Bulldogs returned to the field in the second half determined to get back into the game, and did, scoring on both of their possessions. But Harrison scored as well, maintaining a two-touchdown lead until the visitors scored in the waning minutes of the contest, trimming the final margin to eight points, 21-13.
Greenwood’s first score came at the end of an 85-yard drive that took 10 plays and included a pair of penalties, one going each way. The touchdown came on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Storm Scherrey to receiver Adian Gray. A bad exchange foiled the extra point try.
But Harrison answered quickly with its final score after another time-consuming drive. The touchdown came on a 29-yard quarterback keeper that pushed the Goblins’ lead back to 15 points at 21-6. With the clock winding down quickly, Greenwood had little time to catch up.
The Jr. ‘Dogs returned the Harrison kickoff to the 40, but three plays later they were in danger of turning the ball over on downs at the 48. A pass to receiver Brett Wood bailed them out, however.
The short sideline toss turned into a big gainer as Wood sprinted down the field all the way to the Harrison 1-yard-line. Scherrey scored on the next snap and the PAT was good by J.T. Stanfill.
But that was it for the freshmen ‘Dogs, who were unable to prevent a first down by the Goblins, allowing them to run out the clock and take a knee as time expired. The win left Harrison as the odds-on favorite to win the River Valley Conference title in 2019. Harrison still must travel to Alma and will host Van Buren in its season finale.
Coach Rhea didn’t have a lot to say after the loss and the long bus ride back to Greenwood. The nature of the contest was obvious and the outcome predictable, especially on Harrison’s home turf.
“Harrison’s offense was the difference,” said Rhea. “They were able to keep drives going and keep [the ball] away from us. We only had the ball a couple times after the half and scored [touchdowns] on each of those drives. But we could not get the ball back late.”
Greenwood will try to regroup this week for yet another big road game at Van Buren. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Blakemore Field. The regular season finale will be November 7th at home against Alma.