Greenwood earns their 16th trip to the State Championship with a 31-24 win over Benton.
It took 10 seconds into the game to find out how the game was going to go. On paper Benton and Greenwood were evenly matched in stats, but it was the defenses that had been doubted throughout the year that stood tall in key moments for both teams.
Greenwood would receive the opening kick setting up in their own territory. First play, Benton would read it perfectly and get the first of 5 turnovers of the first half. The interception would turn into a Touchdown, with the kick good Benton was on the board 7-0 with 11:50 in the First Quarter. 0. Greenwood would punt back to Benton after stalling on their 2nd drive. Benton would elect to punt with Greenwood’s Eli Whitaker and Brady Mackey coming up with big stops on 2nd and 3rd down.
On the Bulldogs 3rd drive Hunter Houston would get into a rhythm with passes to Grant Karnes and L.J. Robins, and a scamper down to the Panther 5 yard line. After two runs and an incomplete pass, Greenwood opted to end with points on 4th down with Bodey Steinfeldt tacking on 3 points to put the score 7-3 with 5:25 left in the 1st. Benton would get down inside the 5 of Greenwood. Brady Mackey and Evan Williams hit the running back causing a fumble at the goal line with Senior Storm Scherrey recovering it in the end zone to get the ‘Dogs to start their next drive on the 20 yard line. Hunter Houston would find L.J. Robins to get the first down and then call his own number going through the Panther defense to get the Bulldogs across midfield. A pass to Isaiah Arrington got Greenwood to the Benton 28, from there it was Jake Glover taking it in for the touchdown. Perfect hold from Brett Wood on the Steinfeldt kick to add the Extra Point. Greenwood up 10-7 with 2:15 in the 1st. The Panthers would punt on their next drive, with stops from Kaleb Garner on 2nd down and Josh Allen on 3rd down. A run by Jake Glover would end the eventful first quarter at 10-7
Grant Karnes would catch the Houston pass in traffic to get the ‘Dogs across midfield. The drive would be short lived as a a broken up pass intended for Aiden Kennon would be intercepted at the Benton 22. From there Benton’s Braylen Russell showed why he has been sought after, carrying a majority of the load from the running back position. Behind an aggressive Offensive Line Benton drove down the field and Russell getting in the end zone, the extra point was good putting the Panthers back on top 14-10 with 5:53 left in the 2nd. On Greenwood’s possession, Houston would get the call several times rushing for a first down. Facing a 4th and 5, Houston would find Arrington down the visitor sideline for the touchdown, extra point was good to put the ‘Dogs on top 17-14 with 3:33 left in the half. Houston would hit Karnes for a quick strike than the next play the pass intended for L.J. Robins would pop up get intercepted at the Benton 8 yard line. Benton’s Cline Hooten finds Maddox Davis to get the Panthers to midfield. A Hooten pass to Logan Owen put them in scoring position inside the Greenwood 5 yard line. A false pushed the Panthers back, a screen pass by Hooten was nearly picked up by Storm Scherrey. Evan Williams, Kaleb Garner, and Eli Whitaker would stop the Benton player short of the endzone as time expired for the first half.
Benton would receive the second half kickoff and drive down on Hooten passes and Braylen Russell runs. It was Russell who would get the call punching it in for 6, the kick was good putting the Panthers up 21-17. Greenwood and Benton would trade punts on their next drives. Greenwood would get the ball back on their 40. A quick pass to Noah Chaser and Arrington got the Dogs rolling past the midfield stripe. Brayden Davis would get the Dogs a first down keeping the drive going. Runs by Davis and Houston would put Greenwood to the Benton 5 yard line. Houston would run twice once around the left side and then leaping in the middle to get the TD. Kick was good score 24-21 in the 4th quarter.
The Panthers would drive down and opt for the Field Goal to tie the game at 24-24. The two teams would trade punts again now with 2:35 left on the clock Greenwood gets the ball back. Facing 4th down Houston finds Grant Karnes at the three yard line. With 0:11 seconds left on the clock Houston under pressure finds a open L.J. Robins for the touchdown, extra point good to put the score 31-24. Benton have three shots to get to the end zone. Steinfeldt would squib kick the kickoff and Benton would return to the Benton 35. First down Clive Hooten would throw an incomplete pass. Second down with one second left in the game, Hooten passes to Elias Payne who laterals to Maddox Davis, with no room to run, laterals to Chris Bernard. Bernard is hit by Cash Archer and Landon Nelms, pitches back to Hooten. Hooten is hit by Eli Whitaker and Evan Williams and pitches to Walker Davis. The big man turns and runs, he spins to pitch it back as Braden Skaggs knocks it out of his hands. Josh Allen lands on the ball. No time left on the clock.
Bulldogs win 31-24
“We didn’t play very well, we didn’t coach very well. Made a lot of mistakes on offense, defense played hard, they battled.” Head Coach Chris Young said after the game. Talking about Benton, “You have got to give them credit, that big ol’ running back it’s a big rascal. He’s a heck of a football player. You feel bad for those guys because they played their tail off.”
Coach Chris Young on the play for the final touchdown, “Coach Hogan made a great call there at the end. Hunter made a great throw and L.J. made a catch and that’s all she wrote.”
With the win Greenwood advances to their 16th State Championship game appearance all since 1996 when then Head Coach Ronnie Peacock faced a Watson Chapel. This State Championship appearance has a familiar feel to it as not only do they face their Week 9 opponent Pulaski Academy, but during the Rick Jones era the ‘Dogs and Bruins fought for a Class 5A State Championship and during the playoffs. Pulaski looks toward the game as a rematch from their 32-23 loss in Week 9.
The Resident News Sports will have a preview of Greenwood’s 16th trip to the State Championship and coverage of the game. For those that cannot make the game, GreenwoodDogPound.com and Greenwood Sports Center will have an audio only livestream. The game will be broadcast on Arkansas PBS live. The game is slated for a 6:30 PM start time on Saturday, December 3rd.