Young, but promising defense improving with each week

Litza Craig

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} Bearden’s football team has relied on young players all season, and that is not more evident than on defense where sophomores Kole Matherly, Isaiah McDaniel, and Chandler Greer have all been major contributors. “It’s an honor to play as a sophomore, it’s a privilege,” Greer said. “It’s a very big step up from freshman ball to varsity ball, and it’s a lot faster pace game and more hard work. It’s a big jump on the physical level.” With young talent come big shoes to fill, which at the start of the season seemed unlikely. The Bulldogs (4-3, 2-2), however, seem ready going into Friday night’s game against Heritage (1-6, 0-4). “We started out a little shaky at the start, and then gradually each game we have been improving,” junior Ethan Pollack said. “And that’s all you can ask for in a team.” Bearden’s young defense has had their ups and downs this season as they are gaining more and more experience each game. “We have had a lot of improvement from Kole Matherly who has started every game for us,” defensive coordinator Brian Tanner said. “Chandler Greer, who is a sophomore, has gotten a lot more reps and Isaiah McDaniel who has started every game for us in the secondary.” Sophomore Caleb Bartlett has also gotten some playing time on the defensive line this season. “I think that they are getting use to the speed of the game and the difference between freshman and varsity,” Coach Tanner said. “And they’re getting better technique-wise and in the effort that they are giving.” The Bulldog defense may be young and lack varsity experience, but they have been led by seniors Kasey Tyler and Taylor Keen, who have been able to help out their fellow teammates. “They bring the veteran aspect to the team,” Pollack said. “Every game is a new experience, but they help us to get ready.” Bearden’s offense has been working on getting the ball rolling early in the game, while the defense’s main focus has been stopping big runs. “We are young, but I think that we are very talented,” Pollack said. “Each game, we are gaining experience, and I think that we are ready.” After coming off a devastating 40-6 loss to powerhouse Maryville and a 31-14 loss to cross-town rival Farragut, the Bulldogs look to bring back a victory to Bill Young Field against the Mountaineers. Heritage has had a characteristically rough season, but did manage to defeat Hardin Valley 38-24 in week two. The Hawks beat Bearden 32-0 in the season opener. “Well, they (Heritage) used their best players (against Hardin Valley),” Coach Tanner said. “They have three pretty good football players that play tough. They are not the biggest and fastest, but they’re gonna compete for the forty-eight minutes, and they got the ball in those guys’ hands.” The Bulldogs won’t overlook the Mountaineers. “That means we gotta prepare like they are a good football team,” Coach Tanner said. “And you know we have had some ups and downs the past couple weeks, so we need to come out and have a good week and be ready to play against them.” As a loss would probably keep the Bulldogs from the playoffs, this will probably be Bearden’s most important game against Heritage in a long time. It will be partially up to an extremely young Bearden defense to win it.