Bearden to play Maryville in playoffs after falling to Catholic

Jacob Steimer

Bearden’s poor offensive performance in a 20-0 loss to Catholic to end the regular season on Friday night did not prevent the Bulldogs from qualifying for the playoffs. Bearden (5-5) will travel to defending state champion and district rival Maryville (10-0) this week for a first round matchup. The Rebels won the first meeting this season 40-6 on Sept. 30 and eliminated a senior-laden Bearden team in the quarterfinals a year ago. "We can’t let the fact that it is Maryville affect us," senior captain Will Burns said. "It is just like any other game. We have to go out and give it our all and compete for 48 minutes, snap to whistle." Against Catholic on Friday, Bearden’s offense managed only one first down in the first half and turned the ball over three times in the game. “We had a lot of distractions this week,” junior tailback Trent Waters said. “We didn’t come prepared.” Some of those distractions included two head injuries to Bearden players. Neither Jake Jolley nor Josh Haney was able to play against the Irish (4-6) due to concussions. Waters was left to carry the load and struggled in the tough conditions. “I think we’ve kind of taken a step back,” Coach Brad Taylor said. “We were building some momentum.” If there is such thing as game-to-game momentum in sports, the Bulldogs will have none of it heading into a rematch with the No. 1 ranked team in the state. They will need to put the tough loss behind them and focus on trying to pull an upset. “We need to kind of regroup and say that this is a new season and see what we can do,” Coach Taylor said. If the Bulldogs are going to do anything, the offense will have to step up. “If we get better conditions, hopefully we’ll be able to play our game,” junior quarterback Nicky Frizen said. Frizen broke a few nice runs in the game, but his inability to handle a snap and his interception over the middle of the field handcuffed the Bulldog offense on the cold and rainy night. “We didn’t take care of the football,” Frizen said. “It was a game of want to, and they just wanted it more than us.” Added senior receiver Aaron Evans: "I honestly think it’s just about playing with some heart. We’ve shown we can execute cause we were putting a lot of points on the board earlier in the season. We just have to go out there and play with some passion." With a playoff spot almost guaranteed heading into the night, though not assured, Waters said that Bearden learned an age old lesson on Friday. “You can’t take any team lightly,” Waters said. “We came out there, and they whooped us.” Pulling an upset of Maryville would be monumental and would take a truly inspired team effort. “We just have to stay together,” Frizen said. “We’ve got to play for each other next week.”