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Bulldogs’ 2014 Schedule Appears Formidable – Part One
This backfield exchange took place under the watchful eye of Greenwood offensive line coach Brian Sims at Fort Smith Northside earlier this month. The Bulldogs finish their annual FASDOGS program this week and begin pre-season drills next Thursday, August 7th. (Image provided by photographer Sebastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Bulldogs’ 2014 Schedule Appears Formidable – Part One

With the start of pre-season drills just days away, the wrapper is about to come off the 2014 high school football campaign, and a peek at the schedule for the Greenwood Bulldogs would be enough to make most Class 6A teams run away and hide. At least that’s how it appears on paper.

Beginning their third season in the state’s second largest athletic classification, the ‘Dogs have their work cut out for them, to say the least. But lest we forget, they’ve already won one 6A state title two years ago, and came within an eyelash of returning to the championship game last season. And they did so as one of the smallest schools in the division, based on student enrollment, so they must be doing something right. Right?

So what makes this year’s schedule any different than last year, or the year before? The short answer is found in the first three games of the season – a non-conference schedule featuring three games against quality Class 7A opponents. Though unlikely, there exists the possibility that the Bulldogs could open the season with two or even three losses before starting conference play.

And though the 7A/6A Central has been reconfigured this season, it doesn’t appear to be any less difficult than last year, even with four new members. So despite their high pre-season ranking by Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine and other statewide media outlets, the Bulldogs must definitely be prepared to bring their “A” game every time they step out onto the field this upcoming season.

You can also bet that every team they face will be revved up to play them, simply based on Greenwood’s recent accomplishments on the gridiron – six state titles in nine years and a nationally recognized 50-game win streak. The Bulldogs will have a bull’s-eye on their jerseys every Friday night, so it will be important to score early and get ahead of their opponents to discourage any thoughts of pulling off an upset. And with Greenwood rebuilding its defense this season, the offense may need to score a lot of points, but then it usually does anyway.

So let’s take a week-by-week look at the 2014 schedule and see if we can identify their toughest foes, or any weak links or potential “trap” games that might give the Bulldogs trouble this season. And let’s start by observing that Greenwood plays seven – that’s right – seven Class 7A schools, along with three quality 6A opponents. Simply put, the 2014 regular season is not for the fainthearted. The following list indicates the date, name, and classification of each opponent.

 

08/25   at Fayetteville (7A)

09/05   at Springdale (7A)

09/12   FS Southside (7A)

09.19   at FS Northside (7A)

09/26   at Van Buren (7A)

10/03   Russellville (6A)

10/10   Conway (7A)

10/17   at Bryant (7A)

10/24   at Siloam Springs (6A)

10/31   LR Catholic (7A)

11/07   Alma (6A)

 

The first contest on the schedule is a pre-season scrimmage at Fayetteville. The Purple Dogs are one of the elite 7A programs in the state and are highly ranked once again, so they will pose a significant test for the Bulldogs. At the same time, going against such a tough 7A opponent in the pre-season will help Greenwood prepare for the grueling regular season schedule ahead.

Also notice that the Bulldogs play just one home game in September, while they play four of their final six games at Smith-Robinson Stadium. Still, their longest road trip of the year is to new conference member Bryant in mid-October. The other travel games aren’t that difficult, going to Springdale, Fort Smith, Van Buren, and Siloam Springs. Four of seven conference games will also be at home.

 

Springdale

Continuing the theme of playing teams whose mascots are dogs, Greenwood will travel north on I-49 to open the regular season against the Springdale Bulldogs, the first of their many 7A opponents in 2014. But Springdale has struggled somewhat the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years.

They were 5-5 in 2013, losing their last three games, and are picked to finish seventh out of eight teams in the tough 7A West. According to Hooten’s Arkansas Football, Springdale has a veteran offensive line and is solid at quarterback, but is rebuilding on defense, not unlike Greenwood. Despite being on the road, I like the Bulldogs – Greenwood that is – to win their season opener.

 

FS Southside

Game number two, and the only home game in September, will be against the Rebels of Fort Smith Southside, and it’s become quite the rivalry game in recent years. The game will be played at Smith-Robinson Stadium on September 12th, and the Rebels will be eager to avenge last year’s heartbreaking last-minute loss at home to the Bulldogs.

Southside’s 2013 record was respectable at 8-4, going two games deep into the 7A playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Bentonville. Hooten’s has the Rebels picked fourth in the 7A West, mostly on the strength of a veteran defensive unit picking up the slack for a rebuilding offense. It’s hard to predict rivalry games, but I still like the Bulldogs in this one, though it could be close.

 

FS Northside

Week three of the regular season finds the Bulldogs on the road again at Fort Smith Northside. The Grizzlies tied Pine Bluff in their season opener last year, and it was the Zebras that later knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs and snapped their 50-game win streak. But then Northside lost three straight and finished the season at 3-6-1. They return 19 starters, almost evenly split on offense and defense, so they should be better this year, though they still lack team depth.

This is also their second season under Head Coach Mike Falleur, so they should be more familiar with his system. But the Grizzlies haven’t had a winning record since 2008 and are picked fifth by Hooten’s in the 7A West pre-season rankings. Northside is almost always bigger and faster than the Bulldogs, but despite those facts, this should be Greenwood’s second road win and third overall.

 

Conference play

The Arkansas Activities Association revamped the 7A/6A Central after last season and four new teams joined the league – Alma, Bryant, Siloam Springs, and Van Buren – three of which are familiar to the Bulldogs and to Greenwood fans. Of those four, only Bryant poses much of a mystery.

The Bulldogs have a long history with both Alma and Siloam Springs as former conference rivals, and they have scrimmaged against Van Buren more than once in recent years. Pointers’ Head Coach Brooks Coatney grew up in Greenwood and was a star quarterback for the Bulldogs in the late 1990s, throwing for over 10,000 yards. He is also the cousin of two other GHS quarterbacks, Tyler Wilson, now of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and University of Tulsa quarterback Jabe Burgess.

Alma, Siloam Springs, and Greenwood played together for many years in the old 4A and 5A West. Siloam Springs and Greenwood were the first schools to move up to 6A, but even then the Bulldogs and Alma Airedales retained their long-standing rivalry as non-conference opponents. Now Alma is making the jump to 6A and the three teams have been reunited in the 7A/6A Central.

Leaving the conference this year are Little Rock Parkview and Hall, along with Fort Smith Northside and Southside, though Greenwood retained the latter two schools as non-conference foes. So it appears that the changes haven’t really shifted the balance of power much at all. Conway and Greenwood remain as the top two teams, according to Hooten’s, followed by Bryant, Catholic, Alma, Russellville, Siloam Springs, and Van Buren.

So the upcoming season is sure to be exciting and could even hold a few surprises for us. How will Alma compete in its first season at the 6A level? Can Siloam Springs make a move after two brutal years in the 7A/6A West? What will Bryant bring to the table? And can both Conway and Greenwood live up to all of their pre-season hype? See our next issue on August 13th for the conclusion to this story, as we go through the Bulldogs’ 2014 conference schedule team-by-team.

 

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