Nearing the end of spring football drills, the Greenwood Bulldogs are enjoying a lot of old-fashioned competition for playing time.
"We divide our team up from January on in white and blue," Greenwood head coach Rick Jones said. "We do a lot of competition every day. We try to make it as competitive as possible where they can show what they can do."
At Greenwood, the 15 allotted days for spring practice, which includes nine days in pads, are used to get players ready for the season still three months away.
"We put a lot of pressure on them; scream and yell and throw our hats," Jones said. "We practice really, really fast and make it as game-like as possible to see how they respond."
The Bulldogs have a good mix of returning experience from last year’s team that finished 7-4 after the second-round playoff loss to El Dorado, along with older players that have waited for their turn, and younger players who may contribute.
Currently, 28 seniors, 32 juniors and 35 sophomores are going through spring practices.
"Young guys are guys that haven’t played before whether it’s sophomores, juniors or seniors," Jones said. "It gives us an opportunity to see everybody, to see those guys that have been pounding the iron and made great improvement in the weight room, and to see how hard the returning guys have been working and how prepared they are and how much better they’ve gotten during the off season. It’s a good evaluation time for everybody."
Competition at quarterback will be fiercely competitive where junior-to-be Luke Hales will battle sophomore-to-be Easton Barrett and sophomore-to-be Connor Noland.
"We have three guys that do a really good job," Jones said. "Easton Barrett started for us in junior high and has skills. Connor Noland, for a young guy, has quite a bit of experience. It’s just so fast and everything is done in short bursts that the pace takes some getting used to especially for the quarterback. Luke has made great progress the last couple of months especially in terms of throwing the football."
Serving as the backup last season, Hales was 12-of-19 passing for 132 yards. He’s been in the system since elementary school.
"He understands it better right now," Jones said. "We’re going to have a great battle there. It’s going to be fun."
Barrett guided the junior high team to a perfect 10-0 season last year, winning the conference championship. Noland is a touted move-in from Nevada. Noland started for Bishop Monague Catholic in Reno last year as a freshman, completing 81-of-183 passes for 1,187 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games.
Returning linebacker Grant Morgan received a scholarship offer from the Air Force Academy this week, the second of what likely will be many.
Along the offensive line, the Bulldogs could have one of the bigger ones in school history.
With the departure of center Colton Sims, two-way lineman Korban Waldemar and versatile Kevin Jones, though, many holes are left to be filled.
"No. 1, you’re trying to find your players," Jones said. "No. 2, you’re trying to find those things on offense and defense and the things you might be best at. You try to find the talent you can utilize and build a game plan around. It ends up being a personnel issue. Are they better on offense or are they better on defense."
Greenwood will conclude spring drills on May 28 with the White and Blue game at 6:30 p.m. Next week, the Bulldogs will host a four-way team camp with Pulaski Academy, Northside and Broken Arrow and go to a team camp at Springdale before taking off in preparation for the July speed and conditioning camp.
"We go against ourselves, then we go against somebody else and then we have a couple of months to evaluate film to figure out that that works and that doesn’t," Jones said. "It gives us a great chance to evaluate your talent. That’s the biggest challenge is to evaluate the talent and get the best 11 guys on the field."