More experienced Bulldogs look forward to promising 2012

Jacob Steimer

With Bearden’s 35-0 loss to Maryville in the first round of the playoffs on Friday, a young Bulldog team now starts the long offseason after its first losing season of the Brad Taylor era. Bearden finished the season losing five of its final six games. “This season is not what we strive for,” Coach Taylor said. “It’s not what we’ve grown to expect.” The playoff appearance did extend Bearden’s impressive playoff streak to seven years in a row, and the team did show some heart in winning several thrilling close finishes early in the year. The Bulldogs were also recovering from losing last year’s senior class, one of the winningest in school history. “Usually, we have a lot of seniors and then there’s a rebound year,” junior running back Trent Waters said. “We did pretty well, especially with how young we were.” The hope is that after the “rebound year,” the Bulldogs will be back in 2010 form for next year’s season. With many of Bearden’s starters returning, there is hope on the horizon. “We can do better than what we did this year,” Coach Taylor said. “We got a group that has some potential.” The Bulldogs return starting quarterback Nicky Frizen and Waters, who finished the year as the team’s second leading rusher and started when Josh Haney was out with a concussion. Frizen started all 11 games for the Bulldogs, experience which will be invaluable for the quarterback next year. “Nicky improved a lot,” Coach Taylor said. “We grew with him a little bit, finding some ways he can be successful.” Some of Frizen’s experiences, however, are not ones he might want to remember. These tough games will fuel the fierce competitor’s fire during the offseason. “It’s going to drive him to work harder,” offensive coordinator Andre Caballero said. “This is going to be more of a motivator for him to perform harder.” Waters said the score from the loss to Maryville in the first round will provide plenty of motivation. The Bulldogs also lost to the Rebels in last year’s playoffs, but not until the state quarterfinals. “Just keep reminding everybody how bad it felt to lose that early and not even score,” Waters said. If the Bulldogs can carry this chip on their shoulder throughout this offseason, it can only mean good things for the 2012 season. “Hopefully that better prepares us for the future,” Coach Taylor said. “We got a lot of improving to do to be able to compete with those guys.” This improvement will take work, though – more than last year, Waters said. “We all thought we worked pretty hard, and we saw what that got us,” Waters said. Waters will be a key part in turning things around; the position of running back may be the most important in Coach Taylor’s system. “That’s what I’ve been working for, to start at running back here,” Waters said. “I’m excited to show everybody what I’ve got.” He knows that his new role will bring new responsibility. He hopes he can do a job to make his school proud. “I felt like I’ve always been a leader, but I’m excited to really be known as a leader,” Waters said. Aside from Frizen and Waters, many other Bulldogs will be back next season, some for the next two. “Defensively, by the second half of the season, we were starting four sophomores on defense,” Coach Taylor said. “They should all be better for it.” This type of consistency in the roster can only mean good things for Bearden football. “I think anytime you get guys to play more together, it helps,” Coach Caballero said. “The game time reps are really crucial.” Bearden is hoping those reps will be the difference between the Bulldogs of 2011 and those of 2012.