GHS

Greenwood High School coach Clinton Gatewood speaks to his offensive linemen during last week’s win over Louisville. A win Friday puts GHS in its first state football championship game since 1988, when it played in Class 5A.

Both Greenwood and Corinth have been fighting for statewide respect in recent years.

All that will change Friday night as one team punches its ticket to the state title game — with the other left trying to get over the hump. The Bulldogs play at Corinth Friday in the North 4A championship in a rematch of a third-round playoff barn burner in Corinth in 2018. The winner meets up with the Poplarville-Lawrence County winner on Dec. 7 in Hattiesburg at Southern Mississippi’s M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Much like GHS is doing with its “unfinished business” theme, Corinth’s refrain is “tearing down that wall” that had kept the Warriors from advancing past the third round for two consecutive years.

Well, consider the wall gone.

Last week, the Warriors blew past previously unbeaten Itawamba AHS 44-31 to do just that. Now, Corinth coach Todd Lowery wants this thing to keep rolling.

“Greenwood is a very, very good football team,” said Lowery. “They have a quarterback that has a live arm and can really throw it around effectively and receivers who can go get it. But we believe that with our game plan and mindset that if we execute the way we’re capable of that we should be fine.”

GHS ended Corinth’s season a year ago in a 40-38 shootout. Fireworks are again expected as both teams have explosive offenses that can reel off big plays at any moment. Both teams average 39 or more points a game and should be fully able to use their speed on the artificial surface in Corinth.

“I feel the turf helps us. Our guys have played in the mud and slop lately so I am excited to see them fully showcase their skills on a fast track,” GHS head coach Clinton Gatewood said.

The Bulldogs are one win shy of making their first trip to a state title game since 1988. It’s a spot they have been in three other times: 2018 (17-14 to Louisville), 2015 (14-7 to Noxubee County) and 2014 (21-0 loss to Noxubee County).

Gatewood said this year’s team is fully prepared to get over that North 4A finals hump.

“This team is on a mission. You can see it in their eyes and the way they are prepping for this one,” said the GHS coach.   

If he’s right, the Bulldog defense might have to play a big role in that. That unit just missed its fifth straight shutout last week as the Dogs knocked off defending state champion Louisville 14-6.

The GHS defense, which has feasted on opposing offenses this season, will arguably face its toughest test of the season. That’s because the Warriors have one of the more explosive running attacks in the state.

The Bulldogs are a pass-oriented team but can still gash opponents when the numbers in the box are favorable. And that’s where senior Jamarion Addison comes in.

The Bulldog offense runs thru sophomore quarterback DeAndre Smith, a 6-2, 200-pounder who started last year as a freshman. During last year’s quarterfinal win, Smith went 11 of 14 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and an interception by Corinth’s D.T. Sheffield from his cornerback position.

Smith was also Greenwood’s leading rusher against CHS last November with 76 yards and three additional touchdowns. This year’s leading rusher, Addison, had only six rushes in last year’s matchup but totalled 65 yards. Addison has 1,287 yards on the ground this year and leads the Bulldogs with 18 rushing TDs.

Turnovers, at the most inopportune times, were the difference for Corinth last year.

“That killed us last year,” said Lowery, who has compiled a 34-17 record at Corinth. “This Friday we’re not so much worried about what Greenwood will do, we’re concentrating heavily on doing what we have to do to win this game. We have to play physical and fast and win the contest in the trenches, on the lines up front on both sides.”

Gatewood said he respects the job Lowery has done in Corinth, but only one team will be left standing Friday in Corinth, and he plans on that being his Bulldogs.

“They have a well-coached, disciplined team,” said the GHS head man, “but we’re going up there to end their season and claim our spot in the championship game.”

nContact Bill Burrus at 581-7237 or bburrus@gwcommonwealth.com.

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