Young’s big night preserves Bearden’s playoff hopes heading into final two games


Nolan Russell

Nicco Young gets one of his 25 carries against Cleveland on Friday. The senior scored both touchdowns in the second half to complete Bearden’s 14-10 comeback win.

It’s not uncommon in high school football for a player to start at both running back and linebacker.

But for that player to consistently rack up yards while getting the majority of the carries and never take a play off on defense? That’s rare.

But Bearden senior Nicco Young is able to somehow excel at both positions, perhaps best highlighted by his performance in the Bulldogs’ 14-10 comeback win against Cleveland on Friday – 25 carries, 150 yards, and two second-half touchdowns.

“I don’t know of another running back in the area that’s as productive as Nicco that has to play so much football,” Coach Morgan Shinlever said. 

The win keeps Bearden’s playoff hopes alive with a pivotal showdown with rival Farragut looming in two weeks.

In addition to playing every snap with the Bulldogs’ first-team defense, Young consistently hits or approaches 20 carries a game.

“Nicco’s having to play every snap of defense for us, so the opportunities Nicco has on offense are rather limited due to the fact that he cannot come off the field on defense for us,” Coach Shinlever said. 

Despite this, he was an integral part of both of the second half touchdown drives against Cleveland, even before being the one to score.

Young serves as a captain on this year’s team and showed his leadership last Friday, helping the Dawgs come back after being down 10-0 after halftime. 

On Bearden’s first drive back on the field after meeting in the locker room, Young put his team on the board and rushed for a touchdown. 

“I try to lead by being positive on the sideline and show good body language when things are going rough,” Young said. 

While doing the tiring task of consistently coming up big for the Bulldogs on defense, he also continued to be a dominant force on offense. 

“I feel like I’ve been developing my body longer than most which has given me a competitive advantage,” Young said. “I also want it more than others which is the key to my success.”

Young constantly pressured the Bulldog defense in the first half.

“Running the football, he was mainly our offense in the first half, which allowed us to keep the game close,” Coach Shinlever said. “And in the second quarter, once we were able to open things up, that allowed Nicco to get a lot more numbers and statistics that he had that allowed us to stay in the game.”

Added offensive lineman Aedan Hudson: “Even when he was beat and tired, he still hit his gap and willed himself to the first down.”

Even with his dominant performance in the Cleveland game, two players made valuable interceptions in order to give Bearden the ball back.

“The picks from Cayden [Douglas] and Cody [Clough] really affected the outcome of the game,” Young said. “And if it wasn’t for my offensive line and my tight-ends, I wouldn’t have been able to score twice.”

Bearden will host Anderson County on Friday at 7 p.m. before going back into region play against Farragut for the final regular season game.

The Bulldogs are expecting a performance nothing less than last Friday’s game from Young and the rest of the team.

“I am looking forward to keep feeding him the ball and watching his explosive power move us down the field,” Hudson said. “He brings a fire and intensity to the team that I have never seen before.”