Bearden football defies preseason expectations, sets sights on deep postseason run


Photo courtesy Tammy Kregel

Bearden’s defense only allowed Dobyns-Bennett in the end zone once in a 14-6 win in the first round of the playoffs.

Anyone who has been in the Jim Smelcher Athletic Complex this fall has most likely seen a set of numbers written up on almost every surface in the building.


That was the record that first year head coach Josh Jones and his staff had seen at least one source predict for their team in the preseason. They also saw a forecast of last place in Region 2-6A.

So much for that.

Bearden – with a 7-4 record and the third seed in the region – now has a chance to make it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs if the Bulldogs can upset Maryville (8-3) on Friday night at 7.

The Bulldogs beat Dobyns Bennett 14-6 in the first round of the playoffs last week.

The Bearden defense has been a major factor in the success of the team this year. They are holding opposing offenses to an average of 16.7 points per game this year. Senior linebacker Eric Lyttle, who leads the team in tackles this year, has been impressed with what his teammates have been able to do on his side of the ball this year.

“I think the thing that has impressed me the most with our defense this year has been how many guys we have had step up in important times this season,” Lyttle said. “I think we have done very well on learning and adapting to the new coaches and the systems that they have brought with them.”

The Bulldogs have also gone from 11.7 points a game in 2021 to 28.3 in 2022 with sophomore Drew Parrott in his second year as the starting quarterback.

“He (Coach Jones) had done a great job with instruction and communication,” Parrott said. “He makes sure that everybody is on the same page and can trust one another, and that has helped us immensely.” 

Maryville is an opponent that the Bulldogs are all too familiar with. They have met at least once a year since 2008, and the Rebels have won each and every one of those games. This is the first time they’ve seen one another in the playoffs since 2018.

Maryville defeated Bearden 28-7 on Sept. 16.

The opportunity to face off against Maryville for one last time is massive for this senior class and is not being taken lightly.

“I have never been a part of a team that has beaten Maryville, and this is the first team that I think has a real shot at beating them,” Lyttle said. “Another shot at Maryville is another opportunity to prove the people all around us wrong, and that is what we have been best at all year.”