story by Aric Mitchell
The Greenwood Bulldogs are synonymous with high school football across the state of Arkansas. Head Coach Ronnie Peacock is credited largely with the turnaround. He installed the highly volatile passing game that has continued to make opponents cringe in the years since winning the school’s first state football championship.
From 2000 to 2010, the Bulldogs won five state titles overall, including three consecutive trophies in the 2005, 2006 and 2007, seasons. They added another in 2010 against Camden-Fairview in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, which they repeated last week at Camden-Fairview in the semifinals.
On Saturday, Greenwood hopes to add number six to the trophy case as they face the Batesville Pioneers in a game they’re heavily favored to win.
But before Peacock’s arrival, it was a different story. In 1994, the Head Coach’s first season, the Bulldogs dropped a game to Paris 27-22. They did manage to end their nine-game losing streak against a rebuilding Booneville Bearcats team that had graduated virtually its entire 12-1 football team from the 1993 season, but there was nothing there to indicate the program’s dark times were behind it.
Bulldog fans were hopeful, yes. But they still had to be convinced. And that convincing came with the 1995 Greenwood Bulldogs team.
What fans really wanted to know was this: how would their beloved Bulldogs fare against those traditional Highway 10 counterparts — a team with more experience and an always problematic ground game — at Bearcat Stadium?
Questions abounded regarding the quarterback position and Peacock’s decision to move lineman Aaron Gamble to the role of offensive play caller. Gamble quickly answered those questions with a 48-14 revenge win over Paris and a Week 2 massacre of Waldron 41-0. For the first time in the school’s long gridiron history, it seemed to be outgrowing its usually fierce competition from the smaller schools. The real litmus test would come on the night of Sept. 15, 1995.
Bearcat Head Coach Kenneth Rippy admitted prior to the game he was concerned about the run-and-shoot passing attack Peacock had installed, but that he was more alarmed by the Greenwood defense. Both fears were well-founded.
The Bulldogs jumped on the Cats early when Gamble connected with Kris Weible for an 80-yard touchdown. The 220-pound quarterback would use Weible to score two additional times throughout the game from 34 yards out and 9 yards out.
At halftime, the Bulldogs led 19-0, and that was with two missed field goals and two botched point after tries. Leaving points on the table didn’t seem to be a problem for the Dogs, though. They padded their lead in the second half with a pair of additional touchdowns, ending the game with a 32-0 margin.
While the rest of the season would not shake out as successfully as the 3-0 start — Greenwood would miss the playoffs with a 7-3 record — the Bulldogs were proving for the first time in their long gridiron history they belonged in the same league as the big boys.
Rippy knew it as well. In a span of just two seasons, his Cats had gone from being enormously successful against the Bulldogs to losing by a combined margin of 66-14. The two schools have not played since.
Greenwood made its first appearance in a state championship game the following year with a loss against Watson Chapel. Their first title would come in 2000.