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McCollum’s Column: Bulldogs know how to scratch and claw

As the Greenwood team walked slowly on Centennial Bank Field at John McConnell Stadium on Friday night, the Conway student section, revved up for at least a half hour, let out a loud chorus of boos.

The Bulldogs hardly seemed to flinch.

Been there. Done that. They’ve been in hostile environments and won.

When the inspired Wampus Cats drove the ball down the Bulldogs’ throats in scoring on their first possession, Greenwood responded with a long kickoff return and tied the score in three plays.

On the way to winning 47 straight games, the Bulldogs have been behind several times.

Been there. Done that.

Conway led 14-7 at the half. The Cats led by seven points at the half in last year’s game.

Been there, done that.

Greenwood took the opening kickoff to tie the score again.

When Conway took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs turned two drives into points that made a big difference — even if they were two field goals.

Been there, done that.

Trailing 21-20 and 80 yards to after Conway missed a 52-yard field goal with the clock ticking down, Greenwood quarterback Jabe Burgess, held by a blitzing Conway defense to ordinary most of the night, completed two match-point, fourth-down passes in his territory and two others to set up the Bulldogs in the middle of the field at the Conway 7 with six seconds left.

Been there, done that.

Greenwood place-kicker Kevin Jones, slightly injured on that drive, then booted the winning field goal — one of the ugliest winning field goals in history that barely cleared the crossbar.

Been there, done that.

Jones did it with about the exact same amount of time left to turn back a spirited Fort Smith Southside effort last week.

A team has to be a bit lucky to win 47 straight games. But it also has to be a whole lot good. And amazingly poised.

The Bulldogs have marched through Arkansas for three years with a target on their backs. They taken some pretty good shots from some pretty good teams at the highest levels of Arkansas football.

But they have kept marching.

So, as much and as loudly as the packed Conway section yelled “Beat the Streak! Beat the Streak!” the Bulldogs were neither intimidated or fazed. With their backs against the wall, they packed a counter punch.

They walk onto the field in formation and with locked arms.

It’s more than symbolic. They play together, they play for each other and they expect to win. And several times during the amazing 47-game streak, someone or several ones have made a play or two. And the streak lives. They have often won because the Bulldogs make a team pay for about every little mistake.

They are organized, efficient and are coached by one of the greatest to ever roam the sideline in Arkansas high school football (Rick Jones).

But Greenwood’s survival should take nothing about from one of the best games ever played in John McConnell Stadium and one of the most exciting, electric atmospheres for a Wampus Cat game in years. The scene and the atmosphere brought back memories of classic showdown games in the past with Cabot, Little Rock Central, North Little Rock and Russellville.

The teams really went at each other in a cleanly played, championship-worthy game.

For Conway, it was a taste of the type of teams the Cats will face in the state playoffs. Most likely, one of five teams (Cabot, North Little Rock, Bentonville, Fayetteville or Conway) will win the 7A state title.

For Greenwood, it was another donnybrook (and possibly its toughest and most physical game left) that serves as nice preparation for another title run in Class 6A, which seems even weaker than usual this season.

So the few things both teams did wrong Friday night shouldn’t overshadow the many things they did right.

From beginning to end, it was a superb high school football game that lessened the size of fingernails, got hearts pumping, adrenaline flowing and drained every level of emotion from those who witnessed it.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

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