Football’s senior class develops tight-knit team atmosphere


Carson Hammond (left) and Kam Smith (middle) are two of the Bearden captains who have helped to develop camaraderie on the football team.

After a 2020-2021 season affected by Covid-19, the Bearden football seniors are looking at this year as an new opportunity with a fresh start.

But the season began far before Bearden’s first scrimmage.

Preseason begins in June with mainly strength and conditioning. It continues in July when the team puts the pads on and begins practicing and scrimmaging. 

Bearden coach Morgan Shinlever described football preseason as “a lot of sweating and hard work.”

All of the players’ hard work has paid off with significant growth during the preseason. In addition to work ethic, the team has relentlessly sought to improve aspects of their game. 

“We have come together a lot as a team,” senior linebacker and running back Seth Arana said. “We have started to really develop and start playing as a unit.

“We’re starting to look pretty good.”

Bearden’s regular season starts at West on Saturday at 7 p.m., the first meeting between the two rivals since the Rebels’ 34-31 overtime win in 2019. Last year’s game was canceled due to Covid-19 protocols.

Outside of the actual football preseason, the tight-knit senior group has begun to bond the team together and have helped improve the program. 

This senior class, in particular, represents Bearden to the best of their ability. With many of the seniors playing together for all of high school and for some, middle school or younger, this year’s senior class is especially close. 

“They’re kind of leading from a very holistic standpoint as far as understanding what a team is,” Coach Shinlever said. “It’s not made up of just one senior class or junior class or sophomore class. 

“It’s made up of a mixture of guys, and this senior group has so far seemed to understand that.”

The entire senior class consistently displays leadership in everything they do, whether that be on or off the field, Coach Shinlever said. Standout players include captains Arana, Nicco Young, Carson Hammond, and Kam Smith. 

Additionally, the seniors lead by example with their daily routine of leading warmups, encouraging underclassmen, breaking it down, and keeping the team together as a group. 

The underclassmen’s response to these leaders help the program run successfully. They are encouraged to work hard for the rest of their team and are willing to listen and learn. 

Covid-19 also interrupted many of these underclassmen’s first years in the program, the years where they traditionally were introduced to Bearden’s program.

Bearden’s season began last Friday, when they took on Powell for one quarter in the KOC Kick-Off Classic. Despite Powell’s strong team – including defensive lineman Walter Nolen, who is 247Sports’ No. 2-ranked player in the country – the Bulldogs tied Powell 7-7. 

“Our kids came out and played exceptionally hard,” Coach Shinlever said. “They took the jamboree seriously. 

“A lot of the time they will look at it like we’re just playing a quarter, so we just need to get on and off the field without any injuries. But this team took it like we are using this as an opportunity to get better since it’s taken a practice day away from us.”

Each team has different goals, identity, and expectations for each season, but overall, the coaching staff wants the players to reach their maximum potential while having an enjoyable time. 

And this season’s goals?

“To win,” Carson Hammond said. “At all costs. First game, and the season.”