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High-scoring Blue-White game marks end of spring practice
Senior Reid Wheeler scrambles away from a would-be tackler in last week’s spring football game. Due to his varsity experience, Wheeler may have the early lead in the competition for starting quarterback. Wheeler started and won two games last season, helping to extend Greenwood’s remarkable 50-game winning streak. In the spring game Wheeler completed 23 of 32 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

High-scoring Blue-White game marks end of spring practice

By Richard White

The Greenwood Bulldogs braved the heat and humidity last Thursday night before a crowd of several hundred parents and fans at Smith-Robinson Stadium in the annual spring Blue-White football game. After Greenwood’s 50-game winning streak was snapped by a loss to Pine Bluff in the state semi-finals last fall, the Bulldogs were salivating to get back on the field, even if it was against their own teammates. The result was a high-scoring affair won by the Blue team, though the final score was somewhat ambiguous. The two teams combined for over 60 total points.

Senior QB Kyler Watson prepares to hand-off to running back Chris Spruill (30) during last week’s spring game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. While the starting QB job is expected to go to either senior Reid Wheeler or sophomore Luke Hales, Watson has an important role as a capable backup and practice QB. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Senior QB Kyler Watson prepares to hand-off to running back Chris Spruill (30) during last week’s spring game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. While the starting QB job is expected to go to either senior Reid Wheeler or sophomore Luke Hales, Watson has an important role as a capable backup and practice QB. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Three quarterbacks took snaps in the game – senior-to-be Reid Wheeler, sophomore-to-be Luke Hales, and senior-to-be Kyler Watson. Wheeler started and won a pair of games last fall, filling in for the injured Jabe Burgess, while Hales has been a two-year starter for the ninth grade team and is expected to be the QB of the future for the Bulldogs. And while Wheeler and Hales got the most snaps, Watson also saw time behind center in the second half.

The clock ran normally in the first half, with most of the returning varsity players seeing action on either the first or second team offense and defense. The second half was much shorter, with the clock running continuously, and few expected starters were on the field after halftime. QBs Reid Wheeler and Luke Hales both worked with the first team offense at times.

Sophomore Luke Hales (6-2, 220) looks for an open receiver. Hales is one of three GHS quarterbacks who wore the orange jerseys during last week’s spring game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. A two-year starter for the ninth grade team, Hales is expected to be the quarterback of the future for the Bulldogs. In last week’s Blue-White scrimmage he completed 18 of 24 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Sophomore Luke Hales (6-2, 220) looks for an open receiver. Hales is one of three GHS quarterbacks who wore the orange jerseys during last week’s spring game at Smith-Robinson Stadium. A two-year starter for the ninth grade team, Hales is expected to be the quarterback of the future for the Bulldogs. In last week’s Blue-White scrimmage he completed 18 of 24 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Several players were also sidelined due to injury, most notably senior-to-be Kevin Jones, the son of head coach Rick Jones, who was held out mostly for precautionary reasons after injuring a knee playing soccer earlier this spring. Jones is not expected to miss much time, and could see some limited action this week at a team camp at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia this week.

The team’s kicker and top receiver last season, Jones proved himself to be an all-purpose player for the Bulldogs, and was named by the Southwest Times-Record newspaper as the area’s top offensive player. With Jones sidelined, several back-up kickers had chances to handle extra points and kickoffs, the latter of which were not returned to minimize the chance of injuries.

As for the contest itself, like most spring games, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the players and the score, but there were several big plays that led to points and revved up the excitement in the stands and on the sideline. Each offense started from its own 30-yard-line, but the first possession of the game ended with a turnover, when White QB Luke Hales’ pass was tipped, caught, and then fumbled.

Reid Wheeler’s Blue team then scored the game’s first touchdown, after a 70-yard drive that required 13 snaps and included six rushing plays for 41 yards, three incomplete passes, and four completions for 29 yards, including the touchdown. Highlights of the drive included an 11-yard run by senior Cameron Palmer, who also had a 17-yard gain on a nice draw play. Wheeler’s longest pass play was to Palmer for 12 yards. He also connected with junior Leonard Martin for a nine-yard catch. The TD came on a four-yard slant pattern to junior receiver Grant Morgan.

But the White team bounced right back, scoring quickly on a five-play drive. After a sweep was good for five yards on first down, Hales completed a 10-yard pass to the 45, then another short toss to the 50. Junior running back Jordan Green then set up the score nicely with a long run inside the 20, aided by a facemask penalty to near the 10. Hales then passed to junior receiver Brynton Jones over the middle for the score, tying the game after the PAT.

Senior Reid Wheeler scrambles away from a would-be tackler in last week’s spring football game. Due to his varsity experience, Wheeler may have the early lead in the competition for starting quarterback. Wheeler started and won two games last season, helping to extend Greenwood’s remarkable 50-game winning streak. In the spring game Wheeler completed 23 of 32 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Senior Reid Wheeler scrambles away from a would-be tackler in last week’s spring football game. Due to his varsity experience, Wheeler may have the early lead in the competition for starting quarterback. Wheeler started and won two games last season, helping to extend Greenwood’s remarkable 50-game winning streak. In the spring game Wheeler completed 23 of 32 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns. (Photo courtesy of Sabastian Neece and the Greenwood Dog Pound)

 

The Blue team responded in lightning fashion on its first play, with Wheeler connecting with senior receiver Cole Jackson over the middle for what turned out to be a breakaway catch-and-run to the end zone for the score. The extra-point kick put the Blue squad ahead to stay, 14-7.

After the White team was forced to punt, the Blues took over again and scored almost as quickly as before. Wheeler passed to sophomore Braxton Horne for six yards, then sophomore running back Daylon Hood raced down the left sideline for 64 yards and a touchdown to increase the lead to 20-7. The PAT failed.

For the remainder of the first half, the White team added a field goal and a touchdown on a long pass from Luke Hales to junior receiver Garrett Collins that covered 34 yards. During the six-play drive, Hales also completed a 19-yard pass to senior receiver Kolton Hughes.

The Blue team finished the first half with three more scores, including a field goal. The touchdowns came on a 70-yard strike from Reid Wheeler to Grant Morgan, and a 10-yard toss from Wheeler to junior Jax Burgess. The score at the intermission was Blue 37, White 17.

During the abbreviated half, head coach Rick Jones presented Brian Vaughn with a signed helmet and a commemorative plaque honoring his many years of service to GHS athletics as the founder and manager of the Greenwood Dogpound website. Vaughn is reducing his role with the website, which is now under new ownership and management. For additional information, see the related articles.

When play resumed, the pace of the scoring slowed dramatically. The first three possessions all ended with no points and one turnover. The Blue squad reached the end zone on its second drive of the half, this time with Luke Hales at the controls. He completed a pass of 19 yards to Braxton Horne, setting up the score, then found senior Seth Bland for the 16-yard TD strike, making the score 44-17 after the PAT.

The game’s final score was also by the Blue team under the direction of QB Kyler Watson. On first down, junior running back Caden Martin broke free for a long run of 45 yards to the White 25-yard-line. Watson then passed to Martin down to the five, setting up the score, but there was some confusion as to whether it was a touchdown or a field goal.

When forced to run, the quarterbacks, all of whom were wearing orange jerseys with no numbers, weren’t allowed to scramble, and the ball was considered down. Kyler Watson’s short run for a touchdown may actually have been placed down inside the 5-yard-line, and the resulting kick may have been a field goal rather than an extra point. Even Coach Jones was unsure when asked about the play following the scrimmage. In any event, it was the final scoring play of the contest.

With the Blue-White game, the Bulldogs concluded ten days in pads and three additional days in shorts and helmets. They will be able to work in the weight room for a couple more weeks and will be attending a team camp at OBU on Wednesday of this week. The so-called “dead” period will follow, mandated by the Arkansas Activities Association, before football activities resume in July with FASDOGS.

 

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