Full-strength Bearden looking for revenge at West


Ed Dudrick

Bearden’s offensive line is one of several units that will be fully healthy this week, thanks to the return of Caleb Bartlett at left tackle (No. 56).

If it seems like it’s been a while since the entire Bearden football team was on the field together at one time, it’s because it hasn’t happened yet this season.

But that changes Friday night when the now healthy and rested Bulldogs visit district rival West for a 7:30 kickoff.

The Bulldogs (2-3, 2-0 District 4-AAA) return a number of star players from injury and will be at full strength for the first time this season. They are confident that this gives them the advantage.

“We’ve been banged up this whole year and have been missing some key players,” senior tight end and linebacker Elijah Helton said. “This will be the first time we’ve had everyone back, and I think it will give our team a lot more confidence going into this week’s game against West.

Helton is one of those returning players who should now be close to 100%, although he did see playing time in Bearden’s 26-17 win against Lenoir City two weeks ago.

Some other key players that will make their comeback appearance Friday include senior lineman Caleb Bartlett and junior linebacker Griffin DeLong. Now that the team is healthy, they shift their focus to a West team (4-1, 1-1) that has had their number in the past few years.

“West is a very tough and difficult team to prepare for,” Bearden captain Ethan Griffin said. “Defensively they play and hit hard, so we have been in full contact all week in preparation.”

Added Helton: “We’ve been working hard these past two weeks because of the bye last week and have studied both their offense and defense constantly.”

In addition to being excited about having their entire team healthy, the Bulldogs also look forward to taking on the Rebels and attempt to break the hold that West has had on them.

The Rebels won 24-17 at Bill Young Field last year and have won the past three meetings. Devrin Young, a junior slot receiver at Tennessee, scored two touchdowns to lead Bearden to its last win against West, a 27-10 victory on the road in 2009.

“We definitely have something to prove this week against West,” Coach Brad Taylor said. “We are looking to end that streak this season.”