Tyler, Keen providing senior leadership for young defense

Litza Craig

When Bearden edged out Rhea County 20-19 in overtime on Friday, the guys coming off the edge for Bearden’s defense were a deciding factor. Senior defensive end and two-year starter Kasey Tyler led the Bulldogs with four tackles and a sack, while fellow senior end Taylor Keen ended the night with two tackles. “(Tyler) has played exceptionally for us this year,” defensive coordinator and defensive ends coach Brian Tanner said. “He has been a leader on our defense. “Taylor played through Maryville then got injured last year, and he has been working hard to get back from that. He has been improving every single week.” Bearden’s defense is filled with mainly sophomores and juniors; such a young team can be hard to lead, making the two seniors at defensive end even more important. “We have experience so they are looking up to us,” Tyler said. “So we can’t put them down. And even if we give up a big run or a big pass, we still have to be positive and play that next down.” The Bulldogs’ inexperience this year has them as underdogs in the minds of many fans and analysts. “I like being the underdog because I like proving people wrong,” Keen said. “It makes it more special when it comes together and you get that win that was hard to get because no one really expected much out of you.” This week, the Bulldogs (3-1) will host the Lenoir City Panthers (2-1) for homecoming. The Panthers have a balanced offence and are led by dual threat quarterback Jordan Hall, who in the past two weeks has passed for 349 yards, scored five touchdowns on the ground, and has thrown six touchdown passes. Tyler and Keen will have to step up to contain Hall and the rest of Lenoir City’s offense. “I think we need to cover better in the secondary and continue to be fast to the ball,” Coach Tanner said. “Because Lenoir City is a big team and down the road you know we have some even bigger teams.” With teams like Farragut and Maryville on the Bulldogs’ schedule, Bearden will rely heavily on their defense as well as the offense to improve each week. “We are improving and getting better every week which is what we’ve got to do with our upcoming schedule,” Coach Tanner said. With senior leadership from Tyler and Keen, Bearden looks to do just that.