The Greenwood Bulldogs continue to audition three quarterbacks in the absence of returning All-Stater Jabe Burgess, who remains sidelined because of a broken ankle.
Burgess was injured during speed and conditioning workouts in late July. He will definitely miss the season opener against Sallisaw in two weeks, likely will miss the second game at rival Alma, and could miss the final nonconference game against Shiloh Christian.
However, Burgess could be back for the 7A/6A-Central opener at Northside.
"We’re just going to have to find out what they do well," Greenwood head coach Rick Jones said of his team. "It sounds like anybody ought to be able to figure that out, but you can’t until you get out there against competition under the lights. We’ll see how they do and what they do well."
The first opportunity under the lights for juniors Reid Wheeler, Kevin Jones and Kyler Watson will came on Monday when the Bulldogs scrimmaged at Van Buren at 6:30 p.m.
"It’s incremental," Jones said. "First, you go in shorts and helmets, then you go in helmets and pads, then you go against each other. Now, you’re going against each other against an outside opponent, so it will be huge."
In limited varsity action last year late in blowout wins, Wheeler was 6-of-8 passing for 50 yards and ran four times for 14 yards. Watson was 4-for-4 for 27 yards and rushed 12 times for 20 yards. Jones kicked most of the season for varsity and caught six passes for 40 yards as a backup receiver.
The Bulldogs lost all four starting receivers from last season to graduation so who fills those positions plays into the decision as to the starting quarterback as well.
"Football is 11 guys out there at a time," Jones said. "Quarterback is a huge spot, but the main thing is that it’s a different skill set in Jabe and whoever we play there. What we have to figure out is how is our team best until Jabe gets back, what we are going to be able to do well and what are we not going to be able to do so well."
Wheeler quarterbacked the junior varsity team on Monday nights last season and may have a slight edge in experience going into Monday’s scrimmage.
"Reid has been a quarterback his whole life," Jones said. "He started for the JV last year and did a nice job. He’s a guy that’s smart and understands the game. He has a good sense of where the ball needs to go. We trust him in that situation."
Burgess continues to work on the sideline in preparation for his return.
"He can’t throw from his feet, so he’s throwing from his knees," Jones said. "The main thing that we want to be sure of is that when he is released to go back to it that he is in shape. We throw hundreds of balls every day. I don’t want to be in position where his arm isn’t ready and he throws too much.
"He needs to be 100 percent physically ready to go. He does some exercises like bicycles and things like that just trying to make sure he stays in physical condition — that his shoulder is in shape and his core. Core is so important for a quarterback, so he’s focusing hard on working his core. I want to make sure that when his foot is ready the rest of him is ready as well."