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Greenwood defense bullies its way

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Photographs by Thomas Metthe

Greenwood defensive back Trey Woods (right) intercepts a pass intended for Pine Bluff’s Jyrimee Thompson. The Bulldogs had three interceptions.

Greenwood's offense has gotten the bulk of the praise this season, but its defense stood front and center in Friday night's Class 6A state championship game.

With a strong effort up front, the Bulldogs' defense dominated Friday night in an overwhelming 52-14 victory over Pine Bluff to help secure the school's eighth state championship.

"Our kids played awesome football, and our defense led the way," Greenwood Coach Rick Jones said. "I don't think [Pine Bluff] would've scored a point if our offense hadn't let them. I really thought we were going to have a big effort because our kids were really focused.

"In a game of this magnitude, how could you not be focused? They were locked in, especially on the defensive side of the ball."

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Led by defensive tackle Jon Womack and linebacker Nick Vota, Greenwood handed the Zebras their worst loss ever in a state final since the modern playoff era began in 1968.

Pine Bluff came in averaging well over 400 yards and nearly 40 points per game. The Zebras went 80 yards in seven plays to score a touchdown on the game's opening drive but had just 82 total yards afterward.

"We had all kinds of issues," Pine Bluff Coach Bobby Bolding said. "We couldn't get [Greenwood] pushed up front, and that affected our entire game plan after that first drive. So we tried to change what we were doing, and that just made it worse."

Pine Bluff averaged just 2.9 yards per play and had 46 yards in losses. There was a stretch in the first half where the Zebras had 3 punts and 3 turnovers on 6 consecutive series. Pine Bluff had rushed for well over 300 yards in each of its two playoff victories this year, but the Zebras had just 82 yards on the ground against Greenwood, with 51 of those coming on designed runs by quarterback Tyler Foots.

"There was nothing that Pine Bluff did that we didn't scout," Womack said. "Our coaches examine every second of film. We knew exactly what was going on, and we had the best game plan that we've ever had. Everything else took care of itself."

Greenwood made things especially tough on Foots. The sophomore, who came in averaging 180 yards rushing in victories over Russellville and Searcy the past two weeks, needed 23 carries to finish with his 51-yard total. He also was 4-of-12 passing for 80 yards and threw 3 interceptions, 2 coming on tipped passes. Foots was sacked twice but was harassed constantly by Womack and the rest of the Greenwood defense.

"We struggled blocking [Womack] all night," Bolding said. "We kind of handled the others, but we didn't handle him at all. The thing is, we knew we were going to struggle with him, and that's why we tried to go to the edge.

"But we couldn't establish the running game because of him, inside or out. Then we had issues in protecting Tyler because of him as well. We saw what was going on in that first quarter, and we just didn't have an answer for it."

Pine Bluff had one other short scoring drive in the second quarter, thanks to a Greenwood fumble at its 24-yard line. Other than that, nothing worked for the Zebras.

"That turnover was just a bump in the road, and we knew it would pass," Womack said. "We never panicked, we never flinched. We wanted that trophy, and now it's back in Greenwood where it belongs."

Sports on 12/02/2017

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