Second half of season offers its customary challenges

Jacob Steimer

The Bearden football team travels to undefeated Maryville on Friday night, kicking off a tough second half of the season for the Bulldogs. A few of the Bearden players have even noticed a dip in student enthusiasm from a year ago, when Bearden had one of its most experienced and talented senior classes leading the way. “It’s a lot different,” senior center and captain Dayton Reynolds said. “There is not as much hype.” However, the Bulldogs have reeled off four consecutive wins, and they have their eyes on the postseason. “Our number one goal is always to make the playoffs,” senior linebacker and captain Will Burns said. Last year, Bearden squeaked into the playoffs with three losses, proving that making the playoffs in Bearden’s division is tough, even for an experienced team. In addition to having to play 13-time state champions Maryville every year, the Bulldogs are also in the same district as traditional area powers Farragut, Catholic, and West. “We’ve got to keep our intensity up, go harder, execute better on defense, and reduce big plays,” Burns said. Giving up big plays has kept the Bulldogs (4-1) from being able to pull away in their wins this year – their average margin of victory has been four points – but because of that they also have more experience with how to win close games. And the Bulldogs are not lacking in confidence heading into this tough stretch. “It’s more fun, we’re going to be hitting harder,” Burns said. “Kids are going to step up.” Added offensive coordinator Andre Caballero: “It’s a new challenge for them. We’re doing our best just to keep things in perspective for them; let them know it’s the same 48 minute game we’ve played five of already.” So during the bye week, what can Bearden fans take away from the first five sets of 48 minutes? “We give it our all,” Reynolds said. “We’re dedicated in those down situations; we know how to get it together.” Also, Bearden fans can take heart in their quarterback. “Each week (junior Nicky Frizen) has kind of built on what he’s done the previous week,” Coach Caballero said. “We tell him, ‘We want you to help us to get into a position to win.’” Frizen has put the team in a position to win four out of their five games so far, and as he has built on his performances, so has the team. Even though they know they are going into the real meat of their schedule, the Bulldogs feel like they have a ton of momentum. “No matter what, when you win, that motivation that comes with it brings confidence,” Coach Caballero said. Bearden is hoping that this momentum carries them back into the playoffs once again. “We are going in with the mindset that we are going to win every single game,” Burns said. “No problem.”