GATORS EMBRACE THE GRIND/Howard’s Greenwood squad faces major challenge at Owensboro Catholic on Friday night


Greenwood High School’s William Howard is an animated football coach on the practice field, a big man with a deep tan and a deep understanding of the game.

It seems the Gators have been listening.

Howard’s Greenwood squad has won its first two games in decisive fashion, and the Gators will put that 2-0 record on the line when they travel to square off with Owensboro Catholic High School (2-0) on Friday night. Kickoff at Kentucky Wesleyan College’s Steele Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

“I think this will be a totally different game than our first two,” Howard said after Wednesday’s practice at GHS. “Owensboro Catholic is extremely effective in the passing game. It’s going to be a test for us, defensively.

“Owensboro Catholic is a very good team. They’re fundamentally sound, they’re well coached. They’ve played very well in their first two games.”

Greenwood went 9-3 last season, knocking off the likes of South Warren, Glasgow and Grayson County –a thorough 36-14 thrashing of the Cougars in postseason play at The Swamp. One week later, however, the Gators ran into a talented Owensboro High School team, and the Red Devils slipped past Greenwood 27-21 at Rash Stadium in Owensboro.

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Huff transferred for the spring semester and is now playing at Pensacola Catholic High School in Florida. But the Gators picked up a talented transfer themselves in senior quarterback Cam Smith, who has passed for 350 yards and five touchdowns in their first two games. Smith has yet to throw an interception and he’s scored four rushing touchdowns.

You could say Smith is a quick study.

“We’ve got a bunch of weapons,” Smith said. “I think we’re still finding out what we can do, offensively.”

William Howard, the Gators’ head coach since 2018, and GHS offensive coordinator Jason Jaggers aren’t necessarily surprised by Smith’s fast start. Smith has taken control of the Gators’ offense, and made Greenwood a team to watch in the first few weeks of the season.

“We’re still learning about what (Smith) can, and can’t do,” Howard said. “You’ve got to be confident in what you’re doing. We had Cam in the spring, so he had a good start. He’s done a really good job for us.”

The Greenwood defense faces a test of its own against Owensboro Catholic and junior quarterback Brady Atwell. Atwell has completed an impressive 41 of 51 passes (80 percent) while throwing for 607 yards and nine touchdowns in the Aces’ lopsided victories over crosstown rivals Apollo High School (42-6) and Daviess County (50-0).

Atwell is a top-flight college recruit in both football and baseball, where he’s a 6-foot-4, 225-pound catcher.

The Gators’ Tel Tel Long, a starting back and receiver since his freshman year at Greenwood, believes opportunity is knocking on Scottsville Road.

“I think if we can get this win, against a team like this, might get us some respect,” Long said. “The atmosphere’s going to be great. They’ve got a quarterback who’s being recruited and they’ve been winning games for a while.”

The Aces have gone 49-21 since the 2018 season and OCHS was a KHSAA Class 2A quarterfinalist last season, falling to top-flight quarterback Cutter Boley and Lexington Christian 33-27 to finish the season with a 9-4 record.

Greenwood’s defense turned in a strong effort in last week’s 38-6 victory over Warren East. Senior linebacker Gray Price recorded a team-high 13 tackles for the Gators, who were effective in limiting the effectiveness of the Raiders’ dual-threat junior quarterback, Dane Parsley.

Junior receiver Canon Jaggers had a critical touchdown catch in the opening moments of the second half in that game, making a juggling catch of a Cam Smith pass in the right corner of the end zone that stakes the Gators to a commanding 32-0 lead over Warren East.

Veteran receivers Elmo Stewart (eight receptions, 119 yards, one TD) and Tel Tel Long (three receptions, 113 yards, two TDs) are reliable targets on the flanks, and Long had the perfect description for Canon Jaggers’ third-quarter touchdown catch against Warren East.

“Canon’s catch was a lot like Doug Baldwin’s juggling catch in the Super Bowl,” Long said.

The Seattle Seahawks, however, couldn’t turn Baldwin’s fourth-quarter gem into a victory in that Super Bowl to end the 2019-20 season.

Greenwood finished the task at hand, and now the Gators are looking for their third consecutive victory against Owensboro Catholic.

“We’re going to need extreme focus,” Gators QB Cam Smith said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game.”