Quarterback for the Bearcats looks to be in good hands with Tyler Vaughn. He took over for the Bearcats during the Anson loss and tore through the rest of district play where the Bearcats won those games he started by an average of 45-8. Tyler can throw the ball deep as well as into tight coverage. Don’t expect him to score on any long running plays, but he will pull down the ball and take off when it is available.
Backing up at quarterback is Carter Arrott who is a non-traditional quarterback. Not the biggest, not the tallest and not the fastest, he is simply a gamer. After being moved up from the Junior Varsity level last season Arrott finished the year as Ballinger’s highest rated passer as he didn’t throw an interception on the season while seeing significant game action in three games. One underrated aspect of Arrotts game is his running ability. He runs the ball like a running back. Not only does he fail to avoid contact, but he looks for it.
Junior Briley Clinton looks to be third on the depth chart at quarterback after seeing significant time on JV the past two years. Clinton might not have the biggest arm, but he is intelligent and knows what to do at the position should his number get called.
After having Cooper Bean run the show at running back for the past three seasons it looks to be a position done by committee this season. First up is the Senior of the team Garrett Dixon. Dixon is an athlete that was likely heading to the state track meet in track as well as in discus had the Spring not been derailed by Coronavirus. He is a plus athlete that will be dangerous any time he gets into space. As a player with multiple positions last season he was the second leading receiver for the Bearcats with 355 yards on 16 receptions.
Beau Perkins came up from Junior Varsity last season and got carries in four games for Ballinger, finally hitting 100 yards in the final game against TLCA. An interesting note is that of all players with 20 or more carries last season for Ballinger, Beau led the team in yards per carry with 258 yards on 25 carries for a 10.3 yard average.
Jayden Fuentes is another Junior that moved up in the middle of the season last year. Jayden didn’t get many chances last year to show off his skills, but he is a talented runner that does not shy away from contact. Despite his short stature he has deceptive speed and can make some things happen if given the opportunity.
Nathan Rivera-McDuffee is the lone Sophomore on Varsity to start the season. Nathan has been a running back every year since the 7th grade. He has terrific footwork and field vision for someone his age. He is on the smaller side and not the speediest of backs, but he can find holes and make something out of nothing. Running behind the massive Ballinger line should make it hard for opponents to find him when given opportunities.
Receiver is likely the deepest position on offense for Ballinger and everything starts here with Weston Rollwitz. Weston has been the Bearcats leading receiver each of the past two seasons and there doesn’t look like any reason for that to change this year as a Senior. Last season Weston had 572 yards on just 27 catches. His numbers could have been much more impressive had Ballinger needed him in competitive contests. In blowout victories it wasn’t uncommon for Weston to have just one or two catches before being taken out of the offense early in the game. Another dangerous facet of his game is running the ball as Weston had 13 carries for 146 yards last season
Joe Marcus Guerrero:
Joe Marcus is a perfect complement to Weston in the passing game. A State caliber track athlete lining up opposite another State caliber track athlete is something many teams dream of and something that Ballinger has available every play. He might not have the volume of passes thrown his way that Weston gets, but he makes every one count, leading the team in yards per reception a season ago with 7 catches for 178 yards, for an astounding average of 25.4 yards per reception.
Bradyn is listed on the Ballinger roster as a receiver, but was likely to see time at running back as well as Ballinger looked to get its best athletes on the field to replace the production of Cooper Bean. Unfortunately for Bradyn and the Bearcats he suffered an injury during the preseason scrimmage against Anson and is unlikely to play this season. We wish Bradyn well in his recovery moving forward.
Gavin Martinez looks to fit right in with the Ballinger receiving corps this year. Last year Gavin had 7 catches for 153 yards while playing for the Miles Bulldogs.
Other receivers for Ballinger are Dylan Hostetter, Landen Landers, Trey Matschek, Colton Hampton and Blake Collom. Dylan is the only returning varsity player from last season other than the final game against TLCA when the JV were all moved up. Against TLCA Hostetter and Landers both had big plays. Look for all four players to get significant playing time especially in district play for the Bearcats. Coach Lipsey will always get players on the field whenever possible.
When talking about linemen in Ballinger you can’t start anywhere else than 2-way All-state lineman Adam Winn. Adam is big, tough, athletic and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Ballinger will use Winn in multiple ways on offense. Pass blocking, run blocking or pulling out in front on outside plays Winn will be at the center of whatever is happening for the Bearcats.
Colton Belk is in his third year playing center for Ballinger. He is not the biggest player, but he is the definition of being “country strong”. Wrestling a defensive linemen is not much different than wrestling livestock and even though he is usually one of the smallest on the field, he is never the reason a play breaks down.
Toliver is the third of the Ballinger linemen that is in his third season of Varsity play. Eric is as Bearcat legacy as you can get, his grandfather and father were both outstanding Bearcats and his two older siblings were stars on the basketball court. Eric is blessed with long arms that help him keep the defensive linemen at bay.
Marcus Castleberry is a mountain of a man and still growing. As a sophomore a season ago Markus didn’t play as much on offense with Seniors in front of him, but with a year of experience, combined with his size and strength it will be difficult to keep him off the field or for opponents to keep him off of them.
Other offensive linemen listed for Ballinger are Nakia Villarreal, Aiden Busenlehner, Daniel Medina, Cash Drennan, Josh Harrison, Bryce Foster and Cooper Switzer. All of these young men look to break into a strong rotation along the line and all of them have pluses on their side. Nakia is a converted running back that just wouldn’t stop growing. His size combined with athletic ability could give something the Bearcats need in the rotation. Cash Drennan is a big, strong young man that missed his Junior year to injury and should be looking to finish his career with a bang. Maybe the biggest impact among the new linemen could be Daniel Medina, whose brother Adolph was a multi-year all district player for Ballinger.
Like offensive line, Adam Winn will be the focal point along the Ballinger defensive line. Adam will get pressure regularly due to a tremendous mix of strength and athleticism. Adam is looking to repeat as a 2-way all state performer and he has the talent to do so.
Markus will thrive off of the focus given to Adam this year. With a year of varsity experience under his belt he now knows what to expect on Fridays. Look for Markus to impact game often.
With two of the three main spots all but locked in look for Ballinger to have a steady rotation opposite Adam Winn. Players like Bryce Foster that are blessed with outstanding size and strength can be counted on in pass rush situations when they just have to go after the quarterback.
Garrett is the least questionable part of the most unknown position group on the Ballinger team. Garrett was one of the leading tacklers on the team and was second on the team in sacks behind Bradyn Bowman. He will have to have an even larger impact for Ballinger this year in his Senior year.
Aiden is taking on the unenviable task of following in Cooper Beans shoes. Despite this he is not intimidated. A downhill plugger, Aiden will meet a running back in the hole and make them regret it. In his first full year as a starter don’t discount the impact he will make all over the field.
Beau came up from Junior Varsity last season and got a good amount of playing time. The game should have slowed down for him in his second year and at 6′ and 220 pounds he will be one of largest linebackers many of Ballinger’s opponents face. Beau also has sideline to sideline speed and will look to make his mark this season.
Jayden Fuentes, Nathan Rivera-McDuffee, Dylan Hostetter and Colton Hampton are the other linebackers expected to be in the rotation and of those Dylan is the most experienced at the Varsity level. Jayden is a downhill thumper, but small for an inside linebacker. Nathan will not only be moving to Varsity he is also learning a new position. Colton is moving up from JV this season as well.
Not only is Weston a terrific receiver he is a load to handle at cornerback. Possessing above average height and strength he is not afraid to stick his nose in and find the football. Last season Weston was 6th on the team in tackles, only 1 behind Aiden Busenlehner and 2 behind Bradyn Bowman at linebacker. He will come up and make a play and has the speed to stick with any man in coverage.
Tyler is quarterback on offense and in the safety position he is the quarterback of the defense as well. If there is one defining play of Tyler defensively it is his game sealing interception in the closing moments of the Brady game last season. He can make a big play when needed, but also makes sure everyone else is where they need to be.
Gavin Martinez, Carter Arrott, Joe Marcus Guerrero, Trey Matschek, Landen Landers and Blake Collom all are competing for playing time in the defensive backfield and expect to see a fairly strong rotation between them all throughout the season. Ballinger has options at safety when in the 2 deep by either moving Weston Rollwitz to safety and bringing in another cornerback or keeping Weston at corner and bringing in Arrott at safety where he has four years of experience. This is a position group that could see some tinkering from the coaches as they try to find the best combination of players. One thing they are not lacking is athleticism.
Game 1 @ Jim Ned
Jim Ned is a perennial playoff contender in 3AD1 and looking at Ballinger’s schedule, should be a shoe-in for one of the two toughest games they will have this year and I have it as the second toughest during the preseason. Expect to see some hard hitting and playmakers all over the field from both teams. Jim Ned is coming off of a 7-4 year and they played a lot of the same teams as Ballinger. One interesting point to look at is the Anson team that defeated Ballinger 27-21 lost to Jim Ned 44-0.
Game 2 vs Breckenridge
On the outside looking in at Breckinridge you would think they are a down team. They were 1-9 a season ago which looks very bad until you look at the teams they played. Losses against Cisco, Brock, Jim Ned, Eastland, Wall, Clyde and Comanche looks bad enough and then add in the losses to Jacksboro and Dublin, who finished first and second in 3AD2 District 6. If Breckinridge didn’t have the toughest schedule in 3A a season ago they were definitely in the top 3. Even though they lost every one of these games they have faced challenging opponents week in and week out. Comparatively last season Ballinger was blowing the doors off of TLCA and Grape Creek.
Game 3 vs Colorado City
No team is as much of an enigma for Ballinger as the C-City Wolves. After back to back tremendous years of 11 wins in 2017 and 10 wins in 2018 the Wolves followed that up with an 0-10 season one year ago. C-City starts off the year with a rough stretch as well with teams that all won 8 or more games last season in Albany, Crane, Ballinger and Coahoma. Ballinger will know who they are facing by the third game of the season. Is this the Wolves team that lost ten or won ten, we will see.
Game 4 vs Clyde
Clyde is coming off a subpar year to their standards at 7-4. They won the games they should have won and lost the games they should have lost. Last season they beat Jim Ned 14-7 so after the Jim Ned game we will know more about where Ballinger stands with Clyde. This should be a tough game and I have it as the third strongest game on Ballinger’s schedule.
Game 5 @ Llano
Many people, myself included have been hoping to schedule a 4A school in non district play as a challenge. Llano is technically 3A due to redistricting, but this is our 4A opponent. Not only was Llano a 4A playoff team last year, but they are a 4A bi-district champ from a season ago as a 4th place team. In the second round of the playoffs they lost by just 7 points. The Yellowjackets are a serious opponent for Ballinger and exactly what they need to face before heading into a district schedule that doesn’t have quite the challenge that some other teams may face.
Game 6 @ Brady
Some people might write off this game as a win for Ballinger, but if you have watched their games the past two seasons you will know that is not the case. Brady will play Ballinger harder than any opponent all season and play their most complete game of the year. Ballinger will have to be nearly flawless to walk away from this with a victory. In the Bearcats favor is they will be much more battle tested to this point due to the early schedule and experience in difficult games could be the difference maker.
Game 7 vs Grape Creek
The Grape Creek Eagles were 1-9 last season with their lone win coming against 2A 0-10 Rocksprings. This is a time in the schedule where Ballinger should be able to work out some kinks and get some younger players experience. It is unlikely Grape Creek has had the injection of talent to be able to hang with a talented Ballinger team for four quarters of football.
Game 8 @ Ingram Moore
Ingram Moore is very much an unknown for Ballinger but what we do know looks good for Ballinger. Last season they were 3-7, but 0-5 in district play in a district that included Brady and Sonora.
Game 9 vs Bangs
Ballingers lone holdover from last years district is Bangs. Ballinger has won against Bangs the last two seasons, but Bangs has some young athletes on their team. This is a trap game for Ballinger who could likely be playing Bangs for first place in district this week.
Game 10 @ Sonora
Sonora is much like Bangs. Despite recent hardship, they have athletes. History is not in the Bearcats favor either. Ballinger has lost eight straight to the Broncos dating back to their last victory in 2008. The last two district games against Sonora were Bronco victories 58-10 in 2016 and 57-3 in 2017. Ballinger should be the better team, but needs to prove it on the field.
In a worst case scenario situation Ballinger would need wins over two teams in district to make the playoffs this year. Grape Creek and Ingram Moore look very good on paper so I believe we can expect to see the Bearcats in the playoffs again this season. It is all about positioning however and the Bearcats need to fight for the #1 seed they were unable to get with Cisco the last two years and at the very worst hold on to 2nd place that they let slip away with many would argue, upset loses to Anson both years. All in all it looks to be an exciting year for Bearcat football as long as they can make it through a challenging non-district schedule healthy and experienced Ballinger has the talent to run the table in district play.