5-Stars, 4-Stars, and a Championship Pedigree Stand in the Way of Midland Greenwood's Best Season In School History
MIDLAND, TX — The Greenwood Rangers are chasing after their best football season in school history. A win on Friday would tie it. A win in AT&T Stadium on December 20th would beat it.
Greenwood had never competed in a state championship until 2002’s 27-24 double overtime loss to Bandera, and they have not been back since. That team, led by Head Coach Bob Purser, finished 15-1 and were undefeated until the end.
Now, Bob’s son Rusty Purser is trying to one up him and has a very good chance to do so. Rusty, who is in his first year as Head Coach/Athletic Director for Greenwood, has his Rangers just two wins away from hoisting the championship trophy for the first time.
This Greenwood team is 14-0, ranked #4 in 4A DII, and has wins over #5 Lubbock Estacado and #9 Iowa Park in the past two weeks that put them in the semifinal round. Their round five match up, naturally, will be their biggest test yet. Pleasant Grove is Ranked #1 and has been for a while.
The Hawks lost in last year's State Championship game to Cuero 40-28 after winning it in 2017 and have fought vehemently to make it back. They have only one loss this year, a 35-14 home defeat against now 14-0 Carthage and beat #6 Gilmer and the previously unbeaten #7 Sunnyvale Raiders in the past two weeks. They had already beaten Gilmer once before in the regular season.
Pleasant Grove has relied on an offense that's scored over 40 points in twelve of their fourteen games and a defense that allows 17 points on average. Against Gilmer the first time on October 18, they held the Buckeyes to 72 yards rushing and picked off junior quarterback Mason Hurts twice en route to a 37-24 victory.
In their rematch last week, Gilmer relied on sophomore quarterback Brandon Tennison. Tennison completed 12 of his 28 passes for just 160 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. They did have better success on the ground and racked up 181 yards on 18 carries. Senior Darrell Bush had 113 of those yards on 13 tries.
Against Sunnyvale in the third round, Pleasant Grove was out-gained in total yards 325-352, but they overcame it with a long scoop and score from junior defensive end Landon Jackson, a pick six from Quinn Bingham, and touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions. Pleasant Grove won 49-28.
Greenwood will have to be on the lookout for Jackson (#40 in the picture above). At 6'6" and 240 pounds, Jackson is the number one ranked defensive end in the nation for the class of 2021 and is the 16th highest rated player at any position across the country. A five-star recruit, he already has offers from Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, and pretty much every blue chip program in the country. He is the definition of a game changer and will be the Rangers' primary focus when they are on offense. He has 104 tackles and 16 sacks this season.
The Rangers will not be able to send too much help his way, though, because holding down the other side of the defensive line is 4-star recruit Marcus Burris. Burris, also a junior, is 6'4" and 262 pounds and holds offers from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, and more. He has 42 tackles and 10 sacks this season. Burris and Jackson are both studs and will continue to be so for a long time at the next level.
Offensively, Pleasant Grove would rather rely on the run more than the pass. KJ Hicks is a small but powerful running back. Head Coach Josh Gibson told the Texarkana Gazette after the Gilmer game that he is "probably one of the smallest running backs that will be offered a collegiate scholarship. He received two offers today. KJ deadlifts 495 pounds and squats 465; he is strong."
Hicks had 171 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries in that scholarship worthy performance to put him at 811 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. He is still not their leading rusher, though. That honor belongs to senior Bruce Garrett. Garrett has 1,438 yards and 15 TD's in the Hawk's run oriented, wing-t offense. In third place is junior Logan Johnson with 664 yards and 6 scores.
Quarterback Ben Harmon takes a back seat but is incredibly productive when he has to throw. Averaging just under 10 attempts per game, he has still thrown for 1,552 yards and 25 touchdowns. The senior has completed 75 of 135 passes (56%) for an average of 11.5 yards per attempt or 21 for every completion. He has also added 405 yards and 6 TD's on the ground.
Trying to handle all those athletes will be difficult, but Greenwood's defense has been remarkable all year. Prior to last week's 36-33 win against then 12-1 Iowa Park, they had only allowed more than 17 points once in their 13 games. In all, they have allowed 13.6 points per game while their offense puts up an average of 47. They are fast and very well coached.
Offensively, they will have to get running back Trey Cross going against the best defensive line they have faced all season. If Cross is kept in check, then Greenwood's chances go down dramatically.
The junior has run roughshod behind a fantastic offensive line for 2,729 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has been held to under 100 yards once (he had 92 against Seminole) and has 11 games with over 150, six with over 200, and one with over 300. He will be the difference maker for Greenwood.
The match up will be a great one, pinning two wing-t offenses against two outstanding defenses.
Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. in the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco. I will be covering the game and will have a write up of the action soon after the final whistle. San Angelo Live will have also have live score updates of the game plus the other 19 from around the state as well.
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