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Backyard, backfield battle?
WHS explosive backs, young defense could add up to wild football game for ’Dawgs, Rebs

While Bearden head coach Paul Maynard is practically daring West skipper Scott Cummings to throw deep, Cummings hopes Maynard’s offense will be daring enough to make some careless mistakes and help his young defense along.

The Bulldogs and Rebels renew their annual high school football rivalry at WHS Friday evening — and BHS begins its season — with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Offensive backfield play on both sides and Bearden’s ability to use its superior size and experience on offense against the smaller and younger Rebel defense could be critical.

And then there’s the question of West having its starting quarterback available.


West’s split-back veer offense is fueled by a pair of talented runningbacks and a new quarterback who made big plays to help the Rebels edge Heritage 27-20 at HHS last week.

Senior runner Abdul Henderson rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns — including a 62-yard TD — on 17 carries last week. Senior runningmate Nate Martin compiled 118 total yards — 54 rushing and 64 receiving.

“Their biggest threat is the two runningbacks,” Maynard said. They’ve got a really good backfield, both runningbacks have good speed. They’ve got No. five (Martin), he’s kind of their outside man … he’s got the speed to get to the outside and make it go. Thirty-four (Henderson) is a slasher ... He’s got good field vision, he’ll find that seam, he’ll attack that seam and he’s gone with it. He’s got what I call ‘happy feet,’ he’ll hit in the line of scrimmage and his feet are continuously moving until he just pops out of there.”

Cummings adds that Martin “does a great job, too. He had over nine hundred yards total offense last year … we feel like we’ve got two pretty good ones. I think they’re both very equal.”

In West’s one-back sets, Henderson stays in the backfield while Martin splits off as a receiving threat.

“Hootie (Henderson) is a little better (40-yard dash) type guy, and Hootie is all around, he bench presses over three-hundred pounds, he squats over five-hundred pounds ... he’s probably a legitimate four-five (40-yard dash) guy. He’s the total package.”

WHS senior quarterback D’Brian Varnado rushed for 80 yards against HHS while completing 8 of 16 passes for 77 yards.

Maynard said that based on film study, Varnado likes to throw short passes. “Hitches, slants, tight end on little seam routes, the quick (pass) and just let them run after the catch. They’re not throwing the ball downfield,” he said.

The BHS skipper added that because West doesn’t appear to stretch the field with its passing game, “that part of it is kind of encouraging to me,” he said. “The four-two (4.2 second speed in the 40-yard dash) four-three receivers running down the field, they don’t have that.”

But Varnado’s skills may not matter. “The only bad thing is he hurt his hand and it’s in a cast right now,” Cummings said about his quarterback’s throwing hand, waiting for a mid-week doctor’s evaluation on whether the cast can be removed and Varnado can play against BHS.

When asked if a capable back-up is ready, Cummings said “not really, to be honest about it.”

Cummings said that big senior tight end Morgan Shaver (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) “is important to us,” he said. “He caught for over three-hundred yards last year.”


Three sophomores are in the secondary, and “they’ll be times when we have five on the field at one time,” Cummings said.

As for key defensive players, Cummings again points to Shaver, a three-year starter at defensive end, as a key. Strong safety Alexander Braden intercepted two Heritage passes and recovered a fumble.

Although not a big defense, “you expect those smaller people to be able to run and hit,” Maynard said. “West is always going to run well to the ball.”


“They’ve expanded their offense and made it a little bit harder to prepare for,” Cummings said.


“Probably causing turnovers, until our kids get some game experience ... and game-planning offensively,” Cummings said.


“Tackle No. 34” and “shut down the option,” Maynard said. “And we can’t let ’em catch the ball and run for twenty yards.

“Their quarterback’s not going to complete ten of those (short passes) and take his team down the field and score with it. He’s a good quarterback with a good arm, but there’s not too many quarterbacks that are going to complete ten, five-yard short passes in a row and take his team and move the chains.”

Offensively, “Our older guys have to take control from the very beginning,” Maynard said. “They’re smaller and quicker, but we’re bigger, more physical and more experienced.

“Iiran Rogers (tailback) has got to have a big game for us, that’s a must. Eric Pickle (quarterback) can’t carry the load by himself.”


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