LITTLE ROCK – Greenwood’s senior quarterback L.D. Richmond was named MVP Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium after the Bulldogs rallied to win the 6A State Championship over Lake Hamilton, 49-24.
The Bulldogs’ offensive line could have just as easily been voted the MVP. Richmond., who threw only one pass in the second half, didn’t get a lot of pressure early. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns. Richmond also ran for 90 yards on 17 carries. Senior running back Hunter Wilkinson also benefitted bigtime from his linemen, running for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Lake Hamilton coach Tommy Gilleran was obviously disappointed with the loss, but excited about the Wolves’ future.
“We didn’t play up to our ability,” said Gilleran. “The kids made some mistakes, and we couldn’t overcome them. In a game like this we simply didn’t make plays, and Greenwood did.
“The seniors on this year’s team only won three games in junior high. They made it to the state championship their senior year. We have three really good groups coming together, and we have a chance to be pretty good the next couple of years.”
Bulldogs’ quarterback strikes in second quarter
Saturday’s title game started a lot like Greenwood’s earlier 38-28 win over the Wolves. Lake Hamilton scored the game’s first 10 points. Junior Alex Hurtz kicked a 37-yard field goal with 8:53 left in the opening quarter. Sophomore Jamarrion Byrd then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Bulldogs’ 14.
Three plays later junior Owen Miller caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Grant Bearden, who completed his first three passes for 54 yards. Unfortunately for the Wolves Bearden was sacked four times in the third quarter, losing 35 yards.
Trailing 10-0, Greenwood took command with three second quarter touchdown passes from Richmond. Caden Brown caught a 9-yard TD pass to climax a 15-play, 80-yard drive. That was with 9:16 left in the first half. Richmond teamed up with Luke Brewer on a 39-yard scoring pass two minutes later.
The biggest play in the game would come in the final seconds of the half, according to Gilleran. On a fourth down play Izaiah Clenney got open in the end zone, but the pass fell short of its target. Three plays later Brewer hauled in a 71-yard touchdown pass from Richmond.
“There were a lot of big plays, but we should have scored at the end of the first half,” said Gilleran. “It was 14-10, and our kid was wide open in the end zone, but we couldn’t get the ball to him. It should have been 17-14 our favor at the half. Instead, it ended up being 21-10.”
Kickoff return ends hope of a rally
Greenwood followed with two quick touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Wilkinson scored both six-pointers on runs of 2 and 9 yards to make it 35-10.
The Wolves did not roll over and play dead. Senior Layne Warrick took over at quarterback, driving Lake Hamilton 83 yards in eight plays for six points. Junior fullback Tevin Woodley scored the touchdown on an 8-yard run up the middle with 7:59 left in the game.
That momentum disappeared immediately. Greenwood players were up expecting an onside kick, but the ball was booted over their heads and rolled down to the Bulldogs’ 2. Greenwood’s Jase Strozier got to the ball first, racing up the sideline in front of the Bulldogs’ bench, and past for a record 98-yard kickoff return. The old record was set in 1946.
Warrick returned the following kickoff, and had the Wolves threatening to score again when he went down for the third time this season with an injury. Still, it only took Lake Hamilton a couple of plays to score. Sophomore Kendrick Martin broke free, dragging a Bulldog defender the final yard on a 31-yard touchdown jaunt.
Despite being held to no yardage in the third quarter, the Wolves finished with 304 yards. Woodley led the way with 90 yards on 16 carries. Martin had 66 yards on four totes, and Warrick gained 61 yards on eight carries. Greenwood’s defense held junior standout Owen Miller to a season-low 33 yards on 14 carries. Miller did catch two passes for 44 yards.