After some of the edge of last Friday night’s bitter loss to Camden Fairview in a Class 5A state semifinal game has come off, Greenbrier can appreciate a season filled with highlights.
The Panthers ended their season with a 9-4 mark after the Cardinals recorded a 49-28 win, setting up a showdown with undefeated Monticello in the title game this Friday night at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
But, before the season started, many of the state’s media outlets and preseason magazines didn’t have the Panthers even making it to the playoffs. Most of the outlets had the Panthers picked last in the 5A-West, so they did more than just defeat the odds. Greenbrier suffered a winless season two years ago, and last year the Panthers were 1-9.
"This was a great group and we won some big ball games this year," Greenbrier coach Randy Tribble said. "I’m really proud of these guys. These seniors will always be special to me."
This season was one filled with firsts for the program, and many of the school records were shattered by sophomore quarterback Neal Burcham and Tribble’s spread offensive attack. Greenbrier’s second-place finish in the 5A-West was a first, along with its trip to the 5A state semifinals.
Burcham ended the season 247-of-377 on passing attempts for 3,384 yards and 34 touchdowns, along with seven interceptions. The Panthers’ tailback Hunter Winston finished with 1,650 yards rushing on 216 carries, which included 25 touchdowns. Winston also was second on the team in receiving with 740 yards and nine touchdowns. The junior had 2,899 all-purpose yards. Tyler Hardee’s 784 yards and 13 touchdowns were also some of the best numbers put up by a receiver in the school’s history.
"This year was really special," Tribble said. "The guys showed a lot of heart and character. I told the guys that every time that we got beat, we grew up and got better. That says a lot about those guys because we really matured."