By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Wildcats look to return to the form of a 7-4 campaign two seasons ago, which would be a drastic improvement from their one win last season.
Greenfield opens its 2020 season Aug. 28 on the road against Forsyth, one of the eight losses the Wildcats endured last season. The Missouri Football Coaches Association issued a press release July 14 that recommended teams keep all activities, practices, and scrimmages in-house and to avoid interaction with other teams. Also, the MFCA recommended the elimination of the jamborees traditionally held the week before the start of the season.
That means the Wildcats have to work out some philosophical changes on the biggest stage, rather than the dress rehearsal that jamborees afford teams.
“Year Three will be completely different than the first two,” third-year Greenfield head coach Justin Breedlove said. “We have been wide open in the past, but we need to dial way back to meet this team’s needs. We hope to play to our strengths up front and control the clock from the get-go. I’m excited to see how this team buys into something a little different than what we have done in the past. Also, we want to not take anything for granted. We were reminded in the spring how blessed we are to get to play sports. So this fall, we want to keep that in front of our minds and remember what a fun game this is and how lucky we are to get to go out and compete each Friday. I’m excited for this season and the new challenges it will present for our program.”
Breedlove mentioned the team’s strength up front and linemen Jacob Feezell, Arron Matthews, James Dardenne, Antonio Anaya, and Jimmy O’Neal average 254 pounds (Feezell 290, Matthews 260, O’Neal 250, Anaya 240, Dardenne 230). With that heft, it is apparent why Greenfield would change from a more wide-open attack to a more traditional smash mouth approach.
Feezell, Matthews, Dardenne, and Anaya are seniors and Feezell and Dardenne both have two years starting experience behind them. O’Neal broke the starting lineup as a freshman last season.
Senior backs Dustin Harmon and Brad Reid are both expected to receive the bulk of the carries, Breedlove believes freshmen Matt Booth and Alex Pickett will earn some critical varsity experience, and the Wildcats have a potential new starting quarterback in junior Tyler Howard, who sat out the previous season. Additionally, Breedlove expects freshman tight end and defensive end Xander Vaughn to be a force on both sides of the ball for the next four years; Vaughn’s size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) fits right in with his more experienced linemen brethren.
Changes also became necessary because opponents outscored Greenfield 401-108 last season. The Wildcats generated exactly half of their points in their lone victory of the season, 54-24 against winless Pleasant Hope. Otherwise, they struggled to find the end zone and create points on the scoreboard — including five games when the Wildcats only managed six points (Jasper, Forsyth, Marionville, Ash Grove, Stockton).
The Wildcats look to dramatically improve upon that defensive performance from last season.
“Up front will again be our strength,” Breedlove said. “We will have some youth at the linebacker positions and in the secondary, so we will rely on our big guys up front to chew up double teams and create penetration.”