Greenwood’s football history has been one of one step forward, two steps back.
And coming off a 9-3 season in 2015 – the Gators’ best since 2009 – coach Chris Seabolt has kept his team aware of that history in an effort to prevent it from repeating.
“When we met on Jan. 3, the first thing we talked about was that last season’s over,” Seabolt said last week during spring practice. “I even put records on the board. The trend at Greenwood has always been every time they have a good year, the next year’s bad.
“Those records are still on the board for the kids to look at. We’re just trying to break that trend. With that we’ve talked about how last year’s over. It was a great year, but we’re 0-0. Right now we’ve got to go to work.”
The Gators’ 2015 season was a breakthrough under Seabolt, a former Bowling Green assistant who took over the program in 2013.
GHS went 3-8 and 4-7 his first two years before breaking through with nine wins. The Gators’ only regular-season losses were to in-town rivals South Warren and Bowling Green – both of whom went on to win state championships.
Greenwood also notched a Class 5A playoff win against Graves County, its first postseason victory since 2011.
But in years past, the Gators have followed up winning seasons with subpar campaigns. The most recent example is the 3-8 record in 2013 after an 8-3 mark in 2012.
There was also a 5-5 season in 2010 after a 10-4 record in 2009, a 1-9 season in 2005 after a 6-5 record in 2004 and a 2-8 season in 2000 after a 7-4 record in 1999.
“You know how Greenwood has that tendency of going good and bad, good and bad,” rising senior safety Malcolm Johnson said. “We want to try to stay good this year.”
Part of what makes the Gators confident they’ll avoid slipping back this season is the fact they return most of their key players on both sides of the ball.
That starts at quarterback, where rising junior Jackson Adams is back for his third campaign starting under center.
Adams piloted GHS’ veer rushing attack last season with 1,677 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. His offense scored 382 points, the Gators’ most-ever in a single season.
Adams “has gone to work out here,” Seabolt said. “I’ve seen more leadership out of him this year.
“Obviously last year he was a sophomore, so there were times where he might have been a little reluctant to speak up and take the reins. But particularly this year in the huddle, he’s changing things at the line of scrimmage, whatever it is, he’s very vocal and speaking up and gaining those guys’ attention.”
Greenwood lost standout linemen Cade Crawford and Cole Kreilein to graduation, but returns other starters up front like Tate Honaker and Mason Turner.
Xezayier Snorton, who came on at the end of the 2015 season at fullback, returns as a rising junior.
The Gators offense also got an extra explosive dose this offseason with the transfer of Warren East running back Willie Reynolds.
Reynolds played his freshman year at East before transferring to Greenwood last spring. The KHSAA ruled he wouldn’t be eligible to play right away, so he went back to WEHS.
Now Reynolds is back at GHS and eligible for the 2016 season. He ran for 802 yards and five touchdowns last year with the Raiders.
“We don’t have very many Willie Reynolds at Greenwood High School in terms of athletic ability,” Seabolt said. “I’ll be excited to see him on the field.”
Reynolds isn’t with the football team this spring, running track instead. But Adams said he’s looking forward to welcoming the rising junior into the Gator backfield come this summer.
“If you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter,” Adams said. “He’s that good of an athlete that he can make a play, make people miss.”
Johnson returns as the leader of the defense. He was in on a team-best 105 tackles last season, made two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Productive linebackers Stone Bettersworth and Preston Fletcher are gone to graduation. Players like Mason Kreilein and Snorton are stepping into those spots.
“We have more speed than we have last year,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotten smaller, but we’ve got more speed and hitters.”
Greenwood opens its 2016 campaign at home Aug. 19 against Warren East – a game made more intriguing with the Reynolds transfer.
The Gators’ schedule includes several other regional rivals, including Class 5A, District 2 foe Bowling Green.
GHS will attack that schedule with the mentality of trying to avoid a down 2016 after a strong 2015, Adams said.
“That’s the only thing we’ve had on the board all winter program, all spring ball is our records from all the years, top and bottom,” Adams said. “We’re breaking that trend now.”