Bryant High School Athletics


Northside, Greenwood battle early this year


For years, Northside opened up each season by taking on Pine Bluff. While the Grizzlies will still play Pine Bluff, it is now later this month. Instead, the Grizzlies kick off 2016 with a rival in their own backyard, the Greenwood Bulldogs. They're a good football program and we like playing them. ... It's why we do it because they do things the right way and that's what we want to do here," Northside coach Mike Falleur said. "It's definitely a tough first game, but if it was Pine Bluff, it would be the same thing, so we're going to get ready to play and go out there and give it our best shot." As for Greenwood, last season's 6A runner-up, the trip to Mayo-Thompson Stadium will be the first of two straight games the Bulldogs will travel inside the Fort Smith city limits, as they head to Southside the following week. "It's a challenge but we've played the same 7A schools last year and the year before," Greenwood coach Rick Jones said. "We like the challenge and our kids like playing the big boys." Both teams are also familiar to one another because they've seen the other quite a bit during the summer. "We do a lot with them, we're probably more familiar with them than anybody else because we do 7-on-7 and team camps, things in the summer that we're in," Jones said. "We like going against them, they're always competing, they get after you, they're physical and tough. They run to the football and they run with the football. "They're also real good defensively, when you watch them, that's the thing that stands out. Then the thing about their offense is they've got guys who can make plays, they've got guys that can break it. Their offensive line has gotten better and they've got some skill people to go with it." Falleur said a point of emphasis for his team is to try and slow down the Bulldogs' quarterback tandem of Luke Hales and Connor Noland. Their two quarterbacks is where you're going to have to start," Falleur said. "They put the ball on the money, they're both very accurate, both of them are good runners in different ways. Hales is more of a downhill power runner and (Noland) is elusive, make you miss, get outside and take off. They're both good players and their offensive and defensive lines seem to be very, very good." Likewise, the Grizzlies will be counting on two players themselves to call plays behind center, Max Frazier and Tre Norwood, also part of an offense which features several new faces. "It's the first game of the year, and in our case, that's the side where that's the most new guys we've got playing, while we've got a lot of older guys defensively," Falleur said. "It's the first time in that situation, you never know how people are going to respond. I think once they settle in, we'll do fine. "I feel good about our two quarterbacks, and a big key will be three or four of the offensive linemen will be really their first time in that situation, so they've just got to settle down and play." As for a veteran defensive unit, Falleur said he liked their progression during preseason workouts, but noticed a few things during the Grizzlies' lone scrimmage last week against Rogers Heritage they can't afford to do again today. "They got tired a little bit and lost some intensity, whatever you want to call it, we missed some tackles, got lined up wrong a few times against Heritage and those are things against Greenwood you can't do," Falleur said. "You can't line up wrong, you've got to know your assignment and you definitely cannot miss tackles. But overall, I was really pleased and they need to play well, they need to keep this as low-scoring a game as we can and give us a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter." Jones expressed similar concerns regarding his offense after Greenwood's scrimmage last week at Fayetteville. "Sometimes, your expectations are probably not really realistic, but we have a long way to go," he said. "We scrimmaged Fayetteville and we didn't start out very well; we got better as it went along, which was a good thing, but I was disappointed at the start. Our execution wasn't what it should have been, we were a little slow and sluggish offensively early on. "The defense came up with some plays; we had a bad combination of we couldn't get off the field on defense and we couldn't stay on the field offensively, so it wasn't a very good start. ... We've been working the last week and a half on trying to get those things tightened up and get ready to play (today)." Photo Credits: Buck Ringgold