Experienced offensive line leads Bearden in season opener


Kendall Norwood (Class of '13)

Chandler Greer waits for the signal to come in from the sidelines during a game last year. Greer and the offensive line will be key to a successful 2013.

Size and experience are valuable to any football team, but Bearden’s offensive linemen bring that to a different level with five starting seniors who are ready to get the job done on Friday nights.

Chandler Greer, Caleb Bartlett, Alex Murphy, Josh Biggerstaff, and Ethan Griffin are the men playing up front for the Bulldogs this year. Starting for Bearden is nothing new to senior tackles Bartlett (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) and team captain Greer (6-5, 271).

“It’s really great to have all older guys that you’ve played with and that you’ve developed a chemistry with,” Bartlett said. “And we have a great mix of guys and we all like each other and we’re all friends so we know each other really well and we know what each other is capable of.”

That size and experience should come in handy when the Bulldogs start their season Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Sevier County.

Added Murphy: “It’s great… We all have experience being out there on the field, and we all have different opportunities to shine this year.”

The lineman position is not a glamorous one. It is, however, one of the most important parts of a football team. Without great blocking up front, the skill players don’t have a chance to make the big plays.

“It’s very rewarding knowing that you can cause the glory for somebody else,” Murphy said. “It’s really cool seeing that what you do affects others and we have a big responsibility on the team, and basically the bread and butter of the whole offense.”

Bearden has considerable size on its offensive line (the average across the starters is 6-1, 256), but experience will be its greatest asset this season.

“I would rely more on experience than on the size because, nowadays, everybody has big offensive linemen,” offensive line Coach Hunter Fendley said. “So the experience outweighs the size to me.”

Greer, who recently committed to App State, and Bartlett will give the Bulldogs a huge advantage on the ends this season due to their extensive varsity experience.

“We’ve both have grown a lot physically and mentally in the game,” Bartlett said. “We’ve learned a lot about each other and a lot about the team and we’ve had to step up on offensive and defensive line, and just being able to play [for] two years gives a lot of experience to the line.”

Greer and Bartlett get most of the attention as the two bookends of the line, but Coach Fendley was quick to point out the strengths of Biggerstaff as well.

“One guy that doesn’t get a lot of press is Josh Biggerstaff and he is probably the smartest one in the group as far as understanding what the defense is doing,” he said. “He can tell you everything about them, everything they do.

“If you had to have a chief up there, it would be Josh just because he knows so much [of the] technical [aspect] about the game, he’s a big help for us. He could play any position and he understands it, so Josh is a big asset to those guys.”

Though the line is a veteran bunch, the Bulldogs head into this season with new faces at quarterback and tailback. Seniors Xavier Johnson and Malachi Horton, both transfers, will start at those two positions, respectively.

“They’re great players,” Murphy said. “They have very good opportunities to do stuff, and I think playing with them really kind of motivates me more knowing that I can trust in them and rely in them a lot.”

Johnson, Horton, and their experienced offensive line will have a tough challenge on Friday against a Smoky Bear team that finished 10-2 last season. Their only loss was to Dobyns Bennett – once in the regular season, once in the playoffs.

“Sevier County is very physical, aggressive, and fast,” Coach Fendley said. “Those three things fit their mold. They bring a lot of pressure off the edge, which we can take care of with the linemen and the backs.”

Added Bartlett: “We really worked on our intensity level and tried to keep our intensity level up in practice. Sevier [County] blitzes a lot, and the line itself has worked real hard on picking up blitzes because they blitz from everywhere.”