The Greenwood football team started slow last year before finding its stride midseason to get back to .500.
Losses in the final two regular-season games and the opening round of the playoffs left the Gators disappointed with a 4-7 record, but it also gave the team the drive to build off the midseason success.
“Coming back in the winter program, we all got stronger,” senior offensive lineman Cade Crawford said. “We’ve been working hard this summer and progressed. I think we are expecting quite a bit. We have a lot of senior leadership. We were disappointed with a way a lot of games ended, so we are trying to change that this year.”
Greenwood hopes a fast start can lead to a turnaround under third-year coach Chris Seabolt, and the Gators’ first winning season since 2012.
Seabolt said he is pleased with the offensive progression, which is more advanced than at this point last season, but the defense is a work in progress with only three starters returning.
“It’s a daily quest to find who is going to play in what spots and who is going to fill those holes,” Seabolt said.
Sophomore quarterback Jackson Adams, who played in nine games last season, is back under center with plenty of familiar faces in key offensive positions.
Senior Noah Pillow returns as the starting tailback, with junior Malcolm Johnson coming over from the defensive side and sophomore David Adams expected to provide depth in the backfield. Senior Aaron Smith is back as the starting fullback, with sophomore Xezayier Snorton and junior Castor Greenwood also expected to see action.
Senior Preston Fletcher is a three-year starter at tight end, with sophomore Mason Kreilein providing depth.
Ishmael Acosta, Kyan Brumfield, Jake Sanson and Alex Goff should also see times at the skill positions.
The offensive line will include Crawford, Cole Kreilein, Tate Honaker, Josh Rodriguez and Lawson Fletcher, with Mason Turner and Michael Hathaway expected to contribute.
On the defensive side, Goff returns at one safety after battling injuries last season. Johnson, who Seabolt calls one of the best defensive backs in the area, also returns at safety.
According to Seabolt, the corner positions are up for grabs with Brumfield, Sanson and Michigan transfer Tony Bullocks all likely seeing time.
Stone Bettersworth, Aaron Smith, Jackson Pettus and Jackson Fletcher will lead the linebacking corps.
Greenwood returns Josh Wright, who started in spot duty, and Honaker, who started some last year, with a slew of juniors and sophomores also working for playing time.
Seabolt said how quickly the defense comes together will be a big key to success for the Gators.
“When you look at us on film or game structure, we are very similar to what we’ve done in the past,” Seabolt said. “Philosophically and how we fit together is a little bit different, so our kids are still working on picking that up. You couple that with all the holes we have and the question marks that we have, then it has been a very interesting summer for our defense.”
And if the defense can keep it together, the Gators are ready to take a run in a new-look district that loses Warren Central and Logan County, while adding Grayson County.
“It will be a challenge,” Seabolt said. “Bowling Green is Bowling Green. They are going to be a really good team to deal with, especially by the time we have to deal with them late in the season. With Grayson County, Ed Smart is one of the best coaches in the west part of the state. They always have hard-nosed, tough kids. That goes a long way in high school football. Barren (County) returns everybody. I would say they have to be a team that most people are picking No. 2 in the district right behind Bowling Green. It will be an interesting season.”