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BHS finds new QB in loss

Bearden quarterback Eric Pickle fires a deep pass while teammate Robert Anderson (31) tries to keep Webb pass rusher Brian Bibee from making a hit.- Marty McCool/
From the Bearden perspective, the number “two” had both negative and positive meaning following the Bulldogs’ 13-10 home loss to Webb Friday night in Bearden Stadium.

Two as in two critical mistakes that led to both Webb touchdowns in the second half. But two as in the second of two BHS quarterbacks – sophomore Eric Pickle – who led a late TD drive while impressing head coach Paul Maynard.

More on Bearden’s perspective later in this article.

Meanwhile, the Spartans marched away with their third straight victory at Bearden Stadium in as many years, while improving their 2003 record to 3-3. Bearden drops to 2-3.

Webb skipper Dave Meske gives the most credit to his linebackers and his team’s ability to run outside.

“We adjusted after the first period,” Meske said following an unproductive first 12 minutes of offense. “We ran some different formations. We haven’t run these formations all year ... we saw them slide with an unbalanced line, and we were able to get to the corner a little bit in the second period, which gave us some confidence.

“After that they had to widen people, (it) opened up the middle where we could run traps and the belly.” Meske added.

Led by star junior runningback Ryan Walker, and helped by a couple of Bulldog mistakes and a stingy defense, the Spartans did just enough offensively to win.

“I though (Ryan) Walker did a great job, and I thought our offensive line did a super job from end to end,” Meske said. “This is a very unselfish football team, and that’s why I think they’re having some success.”


Down 3-0 at the half, the Spartans recovered a BHS fumble at the Bearden 39 with 10:04 left in the third quarter.

Runs of eight and four yards from Walker, a seven-yard keeper from quarterback Arthur Long, and five-yard runs by Kevin Campbell and Dean Smith set up a fourth-and-one situation at the BHS 2. Campbell went right up the gut for six points, and the conversion made it 7-3 at the five minute mark.

With Bearden’s offense unable to sustain a sizable drive, the Spartans claimed a 10-point lead by the middle of the final frame.

A three-play, 68-yard drive ended with Walker’s 53-yard TD romp off-tackle then around the right end. He went untouched the final 45 yards, and Webb led 13-3 with 6:15 left in the game.

Though Maynard was generally pleased with his team’s defensive play - Webb’s 240 yards of total offense was all on the ground, 0 of 3 in the air - he detailed key breakdowns on Walker’s long scoring run.

“We had a letdown defensively on that big play,” Maynard said. “That’s not supposed to happen, they don’t have better team speed than we do ... not with the type of defensive backs we have that can run.”

The BHS skipper cited a player’s mistake and another’s inexperience in helping create a hole. “The play hit on one side, and my (player) ran across the nose of the ball,” Maynard said. “And we had substituted for one of our starters. (Walker) broke it to the outside, and we got caught standing in the secondary. They just kind of caught us off-guard.”


But Pickle entered the game and got the ‘Dawgs into the end zone.

His 9-yard toss to Matt Gathagan, runs of 10 and 13-yards by Brett Drummey , an 11-yard pass to Lareke Moore, and 14 more to William Tantum set up the big play.

Perhaps the highlight of Pickle’s BHS career to date came on a fourth-and-11 at the Webb 14 with only 1:06 to play. The young sophomore rolled left and without planting his feet rifled an almost perfectly placed touchdown pass to Gathagan in the back middle of the end zone.

“That’s a pass that you would see on Saturdays,” Maynard said. “It takes a quarterback with an arm to be able to throw that pass back from the left side to the center of the field in the back of the end zone. And there was a defender sitting right underneath, maybe five yards in front (of Gathagan). It was a well-placed ball, and it had a lot of zip on it.”

Webb recovered the onside kick but eventually had to punt the ball back to Bearden – BHS had all three timeouts left – and the ‘Dawgs took over at their own 25 with 31 seconds to play.

Despite two passes to Tantum covering 27 yards, time ran out before Bearden could get any closer than the Webb 48.


“Our defense played great the whole time,” Meske said about holding BHS to under 200 total yards. “I thought we just ran to the ball. We had to stop 31 (runningback Robert Anderson) from isolation. They’re a team that likes to come right at you.

“We’re fortunate that we have two linebackers who can play, and our defensive linemen kept people off the linebackers,” Meske added. “(Greg) Rolfes and (Spence) Hunter, that combination of linebackers is as good as we’ve had. Rolfes is probably a Division I (college caliber) player.”


“We’ve found someone who could be a playmaker for us,” Maynard said about Pickle. “Right now it could very well be a two quarterback system.

“Right now, my logic with it all is that he’s a sophomore, he’s got a good arm, he can make plays,” Maynard added. “You’re going to see a lot more of him.”

Maynard didn’t commit to Pickle being the new starting quarterback, “I’m just saying he’s going to be playing a lot more,” the coach said. “He can make plays for us. He’s just got to get more discipline.”

Unbeaten Region 1-5A foe Science Hill invades Bearden Stadium Friday. Kickoff is 7:30.

Though Science Hill’s perfect 5-0 record has been built against some weak opponents, Maynard likes the Hilltoppers’ ————

“I think it’s a rivalry building,” Walker said. “They’re a great football team. I feel like we came down here to play hard, and they played hard, too.”

“Our defense played tremendous, and our offense has a lot of flow in it, our backs were making good fakes, and the line was blocking.”

Meske said the ability to get outside in the second quarter helped loosen up the BHS defense.

The future appears to be bright in Spartan Country. “We only have six seniors on our football team,” Meske said. “We’re playing a lot of sophomores and a lot of juniors. We probably played seven sophomores in the game...and we’re trying to play more people just one way, which we felt in the past we haven’t done, and it’s hurt us late in games.”

As for pressure on Pickle, “Brian Bibee did a great job at defensive end, creating pressure,” Meske said. “And Greg Rolfes had some pressure from linebacker.”

Meske underlined the vast improvement in Webb’s special teams play.

“Our special teams killed us the first couple of games, and now they’re coming on and we’re really playing well,” Meske added.

“We played a good, disciplined ball team,” Maynard said. “Probably the second best team we’ve faced behind (Kingsport) Dobyns-Bennett. They’re not loaded with athletes, but they’re well-coached. Because of the nature of the beast, and the style of offense that they run, I knew we’d give up a long drive somewhere along the way. I’ve been going that type of offense at least one time a year for the past 18 years, even on the college level. It’s geared toward moving the chains, picking up first downs, taking eight, 10, 12-play drives and scoring. But when you do that you’re going to come up with a touchdown, 10-points, maybe two touchdowns. Going into the game, I figured somewhere between 150 and 200 yards total offense for them and one long drive perhaps for a touchdown.

“As it turned out I wasn’t far from that one,” Maynard said of Webb’s - total yards. “It was more than what I anticipated giving up.”

Maynard cited “two contributing factors” that kept his defensive prediction from coming true. “One,

As for another critical Bearden error, Maynard pointed to the third-quarter fumble at the —- that Webb turned into their first seven points. “If you turn the ball over against a disciplined offense as with Webb’s on the 35, 40 yard-line, and there’s going to be points off that turnover.”

Maynard said he anticipated the Spartans would move the ball with some success. “It’s a tough offense to defend,” he said. “I said (we would allow) 150, 200 yards and we’ll give up one touchdown on a long drive.”

“On top of that, we couldn’t generate anything offensively,” Maynard said.

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