Greenwood takes aim at ‘The Streak’ against Bowling Green tonight


Bowling Green High School’s football team has a proud tradition.

The Purples have won seven KHSAA state championships. They’ve sent dozens of players to NCAA Division I colleges over the years. The school district just completed a sparkling new stadium on the BGHS campus.

And Bowling Green has never lost to crosstown rival Greenwood High School.

Not once.

The Purples’ student section reminded the Greenwood players of that last November, with chants of “31 and 0, 31 and 0” when Bowling Green dismantled the Gators 35-7 on its way to the KHSAA Class 5A state championship. Greenwood has won more games than it has lost in each of the last three seasons, but the Gators are still looking for the winning formula against Bowling Green.

Tonight, opportunity awaits.

The Gators (6-1, 1-0 in KHSAA Class 5A, 2nd District) play host to the scrambling Purples (3-4, 0-1 in KHSAA Class 5A, 2nd District) at 7 tonight at The Swamp. Both teams had an open date last week, coinciding with fall break. Greenwood coach William Howard and his BGHS counterpart, Mark Spader, gave their players some time off before getting back on the practice field.

Now, they’re ready to scrap.

“We gave the kids the week off and returned (last) weekend to start preparing (for Bowling Green),” Howard said. “The time away allowed us to heal a few bumps and bruises that you have late in the season. This is why you play those first five, six games, to be ready for the tough stretch at the end.”

Spader has long held to the idea that playing a tough non-district schedule readies the Purples for the challenges of the playoffs. That was certainly the case this year, as Bowling Green opened the season in hot, humid conditions at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens-Smith Stadium. The Purples lost the first game of a doubleheader, watching their fourth-quarter comeback fall short in a 21-18 loss to Highlands.

Since then, Bowling Green has teed it up with the likes of Boyle County and Father Ryan, a private school powerhouse in Nashville. The Purples lost those games by decisive margins, and they’ve yet to win a football game since rolling past Hopkinsville 38-7 on September 10.

Spader made the move early in the season to go with freshman quarterback Deuce Bailey, while getting his predecessor, senior Spencer Newman, on the field in the secondary. He’s also used BGHS senior linebacker Tyler Moore at running back, in hopes of giving the BGHS offense a spark. Moore returned to his usual position of inside linebacker in the Purples’ 36-7 loss to second-ranked South Warren on October 1.

“Bailey is progressing, along with the rest of our offense,” Spader said. “I hope these tough game experiences pay off as we move through district play. Newman has been working hard at cornerback and has been able to give us help on the defensive side of the ball.

“And yes, Moore is back as a primary linebacker, but he will make an occasional appearance at running back for us.”

Bailey has completed 44 of 89 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been intercepted four times while rushing for 117 yards and a score.

Greenwood quarterback James Salchli, meanwhile, has done a good job spreading the ball around the field for the Gators. Salchli couldn’t play in Greenwood’s 37-16 loss to Glasgow last month because of the KHSAA COVID-19 protocol, but he returned on October 1, passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a 39-7 rout of Christian County.

Spader is particularly impressed with Greenwood junior Lofton Howard, the son of the Gators’ head coach. Howard is a mainstay at outside linebacker and also is the Gators’ short-yardage and goal-line quarterback.

“The Gators are a confident team with a number of returning playmarkers,” Spader said. “Lofton Howard makes them go on both sides of the ball.”

William Howard understands Spader’s strategy in scheduling top-flight opponents in non-district play. He’s seen plenty of the Purples, up close and personal, and knows what his team is up against tonight.

“Bowling Green plays a very difficult schedule so they are ready for this time of year,” William Howard said. “They are well coached, very athletic and play extremely hard.”

Kickoff is at 7.