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Bearden Preview
First-year boss Taylor saddled with lots of Bulldog experience


Experience looks to play a major role for the Bearden Bulldogs in 2007. With 25 seniors, the Bulldogs look to improve on its 7-4 record from a year ago under first-year head coach Brad Taylor.

Building on what the late coach Bill Wilson started in 2006, BHS hopes to continue its winning ways and make it deep into postseason play. In order to do that, the experience needs to come together and perform at a high level, and Taylor feels that it is very possible.

“Our experience is one of our major strengths,” Taylor said. “These kids that are starting for us this year have played and started and this will be their third year now.

“So that’s going to be big for us having that experience.”

Having such experience and leadership is always a bonus, but especially for a first-year coach.

“That is a nice advantage to have in your first year as a head coach,” Taylor said. “Even though we have that senior leadership we need to grow in those ways more and the kids are beginning to do that. It’s very beneficial in my situation and just our program’s situation altogether after losing coach Wilson. It was very tough and I don’t know if anything makes it easier, but hopefully having some older, mature kids, they are able to deal with it a little bit better.”

Having Taylor, a 1994 BHS graduate, step up to fill the coaching void was comforting for the Bearden players. Taylor was an assistant at Bearden, 2001-2004, before leaving for Christian Academy of Knoxville, then returned last season as Wilson’s assistant.

“It’s real nice because he kept everything the same as when coach Wilson was here,” senior Peter Shankles said. “It just helped with the transition.”

Returning about eight starters on each side of the ball, the Bulldogs have a good core to work with in 2007. Senior quarterback Dawson Halliday is back to lead the offense.

“He is a good football player, but more importantly he is a fantastic person,” Taylor said about Halliday. “He is a good influence on our other players and he is someone that you enjoy being around and getting to be with and coach.”

Senior Torey Works returns as the starting runningback and senior Brandon Pemberton adds balance to the backfield at the fullback position.

Senior Matt Williamson will be one of Halliday’s main targets at tight end. Williamson also plays defensive end.

Senior cornerbacks Sean Cunningham and CJ Gunn anchor the secondary while Pemberton and Hamilton provide a reliable linebacker duo.

The offensive line is anchored by seniors Shankles, Alex Goltry and Ryne Goodrich.

“We’ve got a lot of experience returning on our offensive line,” Taylor said. “All our offensive line started at one point or another last year and if they weren’t starting they played a lot, so we’ve got a lot of experience there.”

Despite being senior heavy this year, Taylor realizes that getting production out of juniors and underclassmen is necessary.

“I’m still waiting for those kids to step up,” the coach said. “They’ve got to step up, they are going to have to help us win some ballgames this year, and for them to continue to have success next year they are going to have to get some experience this year.”

Junior running back/linebackers Brandon Sapp and Tanner Fine are two of several players that Taylor feels will help his team be successful this season.

“There are some kids like Brandon Sapp that’s got some maturing to do, but he should help us this year,” Taylor said. “We’ve got another one, Tanner Fine, who is going to help us this year and I think he’s got a pretty good understanding of his role and stuff so there is definitely some potential in there as well. We’ve got a luxury right now of having such a big senior class because we’ve got some juniors that I think can help us. But they are not quite ready yet.”

As usual, the schedule this season is front-heavy. Bearden opens its season at Carter.

“We just want to play the best of our ability,” Williamson said. ”Obviously we would like to go pretty far into the playoffs, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time starting with Carter.”

Even though it’s a long road ahead, Halliday anticipates a successful senior season.

“We definitely want to make it past the first round of the playoffs,” Halliday said. “You always say ‘get to the state championship’ because every team that gets there believes they can get there. I believe we can get there, I believe we can do it and I believe we have the team to do it. We’ve just got to play hard and do the right things and gel together and everything should fall into place.”

Changing its postseason fate is Bearden’s number one goal this season. For the past two seasons the Bulldogs have been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs.

“Winning is definitely the big thing,” senior running back/linebacker Preston Rouse said. “We are looking for a region championship and to make a little noise in the playoffs. In the past two years we have been knocked out in the first round, so right now we are just looking to get past that. We will take each week at a time and see what happens.”

With its first winning season since 2000 last season, the Bulldogs hope to improve its record even more this season.

“The goal for us is to win the region and try to get in the playoffs pretty deep, and I think that is realistic,” Taylor said.

“We want to try to build on what we did last year with coach Wilson and win some ball- games.”

ASSISTANT COACHES

Taylor’s assistant coaches are Jamie Miller, running backs; Hunter Fendley, offensive line; Morgan Shiniever, wide receivers; Brian Tanner, defensive ends; Randall Scott, defensive tackles; Chuck Rouse, linebackers, and Reed Lindsey, defensive backs.

 

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