The Bulldogs were back on the football field for spring drills, marking the first time since their 50-game winning streak which spanned almost three full seasons, was ended in the playoffs in November.
“I try not to think about more than 10 times a day,” Greenwood head coach Rick Jones said. “There’s about six plays that if they would have gone the other way, we wouldn’t have lost. There’s about four plays that if I would have called better we would have won.”
Greenwood finished 12-1 after losing to Pine Bluff, 37-34, in the semifinals of the 6A playoffs on a field goal as time expired.
“We call it the law of the jungle — that one play can make a difference in a game, one game can make a difference in a season,” Jones said. “You have to play every play as hard as you can.”
During spring practices, the Bulldogs are looking to fill big holes on defense as they get ready to defend their conference championship in a revamped 7A/6A-Central.
“Some things have been really, really good and some things haven’t been so good,” Jones said. “The way we divide up isn’t going to be pretty sometimes. We go three teams deep, and I don’t know very many teams that do that. We try to practice fast so a lot of people get a lot of reps, and we’re getting to coach a lot of kids.”
Korban Waldemar is a returning noseman and represents the bulk of experience along the line on defense. The entire secondary graduated, which poses the biggest challenge.
“It’s the most obvious, but we lost some guys up front, too,” Jones said. “Except for Korban, we don’t have a lot of experience up front. We’ve got to find some defensive guys. We’ve got to have some guys over there that can run and want to tackle people that have the football.”
Grant Morgan and Jordan Green started at linebacker, which is the most experienced defensive unit in the Bulldogs’ 3-4 look.
“We have several linebackers that played quit a bit with Grant, Jordan and some of those guys,” Jones said. “We have some experience at linebacker but the guys up front and behind. The guys in the middle are going to be alright, but the guys up front and behind that we have to find players.”
Offensively, senior Reid Wheeler and sophomore Luke Hales are taking the snaps at quarterback.
“Quarterback is going to be okay,” Jones said. “They’re both competing hard for the job. They both doing some good things, and there are things they need to do better.”
Wheeler threw for 726 yards and eight touchdowns against just one interception working as the backup mostly, but also in two starts due to injuries. While the 6-foot-2, 225 pound Hales is the quarterback of the future, that game experience gives Wheeler the early edge at the position.
“No doubt,” Jones said. “To have a guy come off the bench and win two games is huge. He played well. The guys around him played well, too, but he did his job. We beat Sallisaw pretty good and beat Catholic. I thought Catholic had a real good football game and we played really well against them on the road.”
Greenwood returns two full-time starters along the line as well as a capable corps at receiver.
“The receivers are doing well,” Jones said. “I’m really happy with them. It seems like every day a receiver comes out and makes a play that hasn’t been making plays. It’s good to see that.”
The Bulldogs will conclude practice with their annual spring game on June 5 at 6:30 p.m.