Bearden defense off to hot start with Maryville challenge up next


Tammy Kregel

Kai Young celebrates a big play during Bearden’s 56-21 win over South-Doyle on Friday.

The Bearden defense has been integral in the team’s 3-1 start to the 2022 season.

The starting defense has allowed just 11 points per game through the first four games with a tough test at Maryville (3-1, 1-0 Region 2-6A) on Friday night at 7.

Senior middle linebacker Eric Lyttle has been one of the leaders on the defense to start the season.

“This year, we have a really nice linebacker core,” Lyttle said. “The line is a lot bigger and a lot stronger.

“I am basically the one who tells everyone all of the calls and gets people lined up correctly. Getting everyone set when the time comes is really important.” 

When first-year Coach Josh Jones was hiring the defensive coaches, his criteria to fit was people that “were good with kids, great teachers and knew football.” 

The defense relies heavily on their coaching staff. 

“We have some really good defensive line coaches,” junior safety Kai Young said. “Our defense is the way it is because of them.

“We have eight coaches for defense, and they are all very well-experienced. Every time we go out there, I trust them to put us in the position to play well.”

Coach Jones saw to it that his staff had high level experience to make sure that the team would be well-prepared for every game, and Lyttle said the players have responded to the high standard they set.

“I don’t really see it as pressure,” Lyttle said. “I see it as more of a job, an expectation – it’s what we have to do. As a team, we’re prepared and ready to go.” 

One of the standout moments from the season so far has been senior defensive lineman Tyson Pirtle winning 5StarPreps Player of the Week with a nine-tackle, three-sack night in a 14-10 win over Oak Ridge.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0) also pitched a shutout against Hardin Valley.

“Effort alone isn’t going to win you a championship, but if you have all of your kids on the field playing with maximum effort,” Coach Jones said, “you have a shot at being successful.”