First year head coach Shinlever, players, up for new challenge


Taylor Johnson

Safety Blake Ironside drops back into coverage against Sevier Co. last week. Ironside is one of a handful of returning starters for first-year head coach Morgan Shinlever.

Wyeth Wilson, Staff Writer

The transition from one head coach to another is never easy.

For the Bearden football team, that transition has been smoother than normal. In February, athletics director turned head coach Morgan Shinlever took over for the Bearden Bulldogs.

“With Coach Shinlever, I’ve known him since my freshman year, and he was my position coach at running back ever since freshman year, so having him [as a head coach] has made for a lot smoother of a transition than if they would have brought someone else,” senior linebacker Griffin DeLong said.

The Bulldogs opened the season last week with a 35-0 loss to Sevier Co., and it won’t get any easier for the new coaching staff this week: Bearden travels to two-time defending state champion Fulton on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

With most staff changes, new coaches are forced with the task of building relationships with current players. Even though Coach Shinlever already has these relationships, he was given a chance to expand on them with team-building activities during the offseason.

“We’ve really tried to focus on a community service project every quarter and then we’ve also focused the month of July on doing team building activities,” Coach Shinlever said. “We’ve carried over both of those to create a better team atmosphere.”

Coach Shinlever said that this season is about laying the foundation for long-term success at Bearden, something that the players are buying into.

“Normally, when a coach leaves, you could see that team struggle with it, but we’re going to the exact opposite,” junior offensive lineman Curtis Kosier said. “I think we’re going to be ready with it; we believe in what he’s teaching us to do.”

However, even with the easy transition to a new head coach, the 2014 season will still hold its challenges for Bearden. This season, the Bulldogs will be replace quarterback Xavier Johnson and offensive lineman Chandler Greer (now at Appalachian State) just to name a few.

After a 3-7 season a year ago, Bearden’s 2014 schedule does not do them any favors. Three of the 10 teams made it to state championship games a year ago: Fulton, Maryville, and West.

But the Bulldogs are hungry for more this season, and they believe Coach Shinlever is the man that can get them there.

“He’s very positive, and he believes in what we’re doing,” Kosier said.