New Alma head coach Doug Loughridge doesn’t know the last time Greenwood lost, but he knows it’s been a long time.
“I’m not sure if my child was born the last time they lost a game,” said Loughridge. “With their 39-game winning streak, it’s like playing Alabama.”
Alma is out to not only snap Greenwood’s 39-game winning streak but halt an eight-year skid against the Bulldogs. The Airedales’ last win in the series, a 17-14 victory, came in 2004.
“It’s incredible what they’ve done,” Loughridge said. “It’s very similar to what Barton did in the 80s. With the level of competition they’ve played, that’s what is even more impressive and then jumping up to 6A last year and running the table.”
Loughridge, although new to the 5A-West and playing Greenwood, knows what his Airedales are going up against today.
“You watch them on film, they’re just a machine,” Loughridge said. “They play hard, they’re physical and they’re really well versed in all three phases of the game. We’re going to have to play a perfect game, and they’re going to have to help us out, too.”
Both teams enter their annual rivalry renewal off opening-night wins. Greenwood walloped Sallisaw 49-3. Alma beat Crawford County rival Van Buren 35-27.
“They look like an Alma team; they’re very big, they’re physical, and they play tough defense,” Greenwood head coach Rick Jones said. “You don’t see them going backwards very much. They’re very aggressive. The linebackers play down hill. They’re a really tough physical football team.”
Greenwood will still be without returning All-State quarterback Jabe Burgess, who continues to recover from a broken bone in his foot suffered in late July. The latest timetable has Burgess returning for the 7A/6A-Central opener on Sept. 27 against Northside at Mayo-Thompson Stadium.
“We’re hoping to get him back for the Northside game,” Jones said “He’s been throwing some in practice. He will take his boot off for a couple of hours and throw a little bit. He’s looking good.”
Reid Wheeler filled in admirably last week by throwing for 211 yards and four touchdowns and guiding the offense to seven touchdowns in eight possessions.
“Reid was awesome,” Jones said. “He went out and did everything we asked him to do. He performed the way you want your quarterback to perform in the situation that he was in. He threw it to the right guy. He made good decisions.”
Last week, all of Greenwood’s seven touchdowns were 16 yards or longer.
“They can turn plays where it looks like people have them stopped into big gains,” Loughridge said. “They’re so fast on offense. They can get ahead of you real quick. They can change the momentum. We have to make them drive the field and not give up the big play.”
Alma rookie quarterback Evan Burris also turned in a solid performance in his first outing. He threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 90 yards and another score.
“He runs the ball really, really hard,” Jones said. “They have huge offensive linemen just like they always have. They are a challenge. It’s a matchup situation, which football always is, where he’s going to run downhill behind some big linemen.”
Burris had a workman-like 25 carries last week, accounting for almost half of the Airedale’s rushing attempts.
“He’s like a fullback playing quarterback,” Loughridge said. “He’s not real tall, he’s stocky. He’s a 195, 200 pound kid. He dedicated himself in the weight room and got to be one our strongest guys. He’s a 250-plus power cleaner and good squatter so he’s got some explosion. He’s a load to bring down.”
He guided the Airedales to 399 yards on 74 offensive plays and 20 first downs.