BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
One of the new kids on the block in the Class 6A ranks is poised to meet the gold standard in that classification.
No. 1 Pulaski Academy (8-0, 6-0 in Class 6A West conference action) will travel to face Greenwood (7-1, 6–0) Friday night at 7 p.m. in what’s arguably the state’s biggest high school football game this weekend.
The two programs have an Arkansas-best 10 state championships in the modern era (since 1968) with the Bruins having played in the last eight Class 5A championship games, winning seven of those before moving up this season.
The Bulldogs’ 2020 state title was its 10th in 14 state championship games they have played in since 1996.
“We are excited about it,” Pulaski Academy head coach Anthony Lucas said. “We know how good Greenwood is and how they have been the dominant team in 6A for years, despite them losing to El Dorado in the championship last year.
“We are treating this week just like a regular one, but there is a little bit more spark to it because we know what is at stake.”
Pulaski Academy has not been challenged much this season, but Lucas notes his team hasn’t gotten off to great starts.
“One thing we are working on this week is not playing from behind too far,” Lucas said. “If they go up on us, we need to be able to bounce back from adversity. It seems a lot this year that we have faced adversity in the first quarter, but against a team like Greenwood, you really can’t afford to play from behind.”
Lucas, the former great Arkansas wide receiver, notes there has been a great deal of excitement this week among the Bruins about the match up.
“We are up for the challenge,” Lucas said. “Our kids are excited about it and our coaches are excited about it. We can’t wait to get to Friday, but we will take it one day at a time.”
Greenwood, averaging 46.3 points and 456 yards total offense per game under head coach Chris Young, has won seven straight games after a season-opening loss at Oklahoma power Stillwater (41-27).
The Bulldogs have scored over 40 points in six of those games with the exception of the Stillwater loss and a 24-0 win over previously unbeaten Lake Hamilton.
“They are good at their craft,” Lucas said. “They throw a lot of quick gain stuff and then they will try to set up and do some double move stuff. They’ll kind of lull you to sleep with a couple of quick outs and stuff like that and then they will go over the top.
“Our challenge defensively this week is that we can’t get lull to sleep by that because if we do they will hurt us.”
Pulaski Academy is averaging 52.7 points a game and has piled up an average of 638 yards total offense per game this season with 425 of that coming via the air.
Greenwood’s defense has 14 sacks, 38 quarterback hurries and 6 interceptions so far this season.
“With them defensively, they are fast and their corners and safeties are solid,” Lucas said. “They are coached well. They are coached so well. Literally watching them on film kind of mimics us, but they are a lot faster and more athletic than we are.
“But to be honest with you, I think the game this week is going to be won in the trenches.”
Pulaski Academy’s Kel Busby and Greenwood’s Hunter Houston are two of the state’s best quarterbacks.
Busby has passed for 2,966 yards this season with 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while rushing for 397 yards and 8 more scores.
Houston has 2,316 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and just four picks this season and has rushed for 90 yards and six additional scores.
“Kel has done a great job for us and their quarterback is not bad either,” Lucas said. “He creates well in the pocket and it is the same well with Kel. When they both get under pressure in the pocket, they both get out and keep their eye downfield and make plays. But I will take Kel Busby over anybody.”