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By Buck Ringgold | Photos by Sadie Rucker 

GREENWOOD - In a highly anticipated matchup between two high-powered offenses, invariably defense generally determines the final outcome. 

Greenwood’s defense indeed came through, especially in the second half of Friday’s 6A-West showdown with undefeated Pulaski Academy. Not to mention the Bulldogs relying on the leg of junior placekicker Bodey Steinfeldt.

The Bulldog defense forced four turnovers while holding the Bruins to one second-half touchdown. Steinfeldt kicked two field goals, including one in the final minutes to give Greenwood an important double-digit margin, which the Bulldogs eventually rode to a 33-23 win at Smith-Robinson Stadium.

“Defense carried us (Friday); there’s no doubt,” Greenwood coach Chris Young said. “At times, the offense made plays and we scored 33 points against a good football team, but our defense, they carried us.

“When we did mess up on offense, the defense was right there to have our back and give us the ball right back, and that’s a pretty good feeling.”

The Bulldogs (8-1, 7-0) also overcame an injury to starting quarterback Hunter Houston, who left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return.

But Greenwood’s backup signal caller, freshman Kane Archer, helped navigate a fourth quarter in which the Bulldogs rallied from a 23-16 deficit to score 17 unanswered points.

Archer also put the Bulldogs in front to stay with a 14-yard pass on fourth down to sophomore receiver Grant Karnes, who shook off a couple of tacklers and darted into the end zone with 8:15 left. Steinfeldt tacked on the PAT for a 30-23 Greenwood advantage.

The Bulldogs held on fourth down and got the ball back inside the PA 28. Steinfeldt came on to try a 27-yard attempt to give Greenwood a 10-point lead, but the Bruins’ Patton Whicker blocked the kick with 4:14 remaining.

However, Steinfeldt got another chance after Greenwood’s defense held on downs once more.

With 2:34 left, Stienfeldt came on to kick a 28-yarder, which was nearly blocked by Whicker again, but the ball rose a split second ahead of Whicker’s swat and split the uprights, giving the Bulldogs their much-needed breathing room.

“The block, I just put it out of my mind; I didn’t think about it my second kick, I blocked everything out, and I was able to drill it,” Steinfeldt said. “(On the kick that was blocked) I was a little slow, but the second one, I picked up the pace, so I knew (Whicker) wouldn’t get to it that time.”

Greenwood then sealed the win on a red zone interception from sophomore Isaiah Arrington with 1:35 left.

“I don’t think it was a lot they did defensively that hurt us, I just think that we didn’t execute offensively,” PA coach Anthony Lucas said. “We missed a couple of blocks on certain plays, we dropped a couple of balls and things like that.

“Then in the second half, I thought that they played a little bit harder than we did, and that’s all on Coach Lucas, and we’ll get that fixed.”

Of the four turnovers the Bulldogs forced in Friday’s win, three came in the second half, starting with a third-quarter interception from junior cornerback Landon Nelms. Greenwood also gave up just two touchdowns after PA (8-1, 6-1) took an 8-0 lead on the game’s opening series.

“(The preparation) was nothing like I’ve ever done before,” Nelms said. “This is my junior year, and this was the hardest week of practice I’ve ever been in. 

“We made a little adjustment (after PA’s opening series), but we knew if we stick to our game plan and got back in the game and fought like we needed to, we would come out on top. Everyone had no doubt that we were going to win that game.”

The Bulldogs overcame a 15-6 second-quarter deficit with 10 straight points.

They scored with eight seconds left before halftime on Houston's 2-yard keeper, cutting the Bruins' lead to two, 15-13.

Greenwood then took the second-half kickoff and advanced inside the PA 10 before the drive stalled. Steinfeldt was summoned to kick a 24-yard field goal, and the Bulldogs had their first lead of the night, 16-15.

It remained that score until late in the third quarter, when PA moved 88 yards in 16 plays. Junior tailback Kenny Jordan finished off the drive with a 3-yard TD run, his third TD on the night.

Jordan then ran it in for two more points, extending PA’s lead to seven, 23-16.

The Bulldogs answered right back with a 44-yard drive which took nine plays after Greenwood recovered one of PA’s patented onside kicks.

On the third play of the final quarter, Bulldog tailback Jake Glover took a handoff from the PA 5 and was initially stopped. But Glover broke off several tacklers and reached the end zone, and Steinfeldt’s PAT tied it at 23-all with 11:25 remaining in the game.

PA, who was without injured star quarterback Kel Busby in the second half, went 2-for-9 on fourth-down conversions, and failed on all three fourth-down attempts in the fourth quarter.

The first fourth-down conversion was actually a run that appeared to be a first down, but the Bulldogs forced a fumble, with linebacker Kaleb Garner making the recovery. That eventually set up the go-ahead score on the pass from Archer to Karnes.

The Bruins finished with 460 yards of total offense, rushing for 223 and passing for 237 more. Jordan ended up with 184 yards on 26 carries and three TDs.

He had a 9-yard TD on the game’s initial series and then scored from 8 yards out with 2:20 left in the first half, as the Bruins built a 15-6 lead.

The Bulldogs finished with 393 total yards, 315 coming through the air. Houston was 22-of-35 passing for 249 yards, including a 16-yard pass to receiver Peyton Presson on the Bulldogs’ opening series, though a try for two failed, keeping PA in front, 8-6.

Presson finished with nine catches for 109 yards, while fellow receiver LJ Robins had seven receptions for 66 yards.

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Greenwood rode to a 33-23 over win previously unbeaten undefeated Pulaski Academy at Smith-Robinson Stadium on October 28, 2022 in Greenwood, Arkansas.
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