This year at quarterback it is Carter Arrott’s show from the opening kickoff. Last season Carter entered as the backup to Tyler Vaughn. Tyler is off playing college ball at Howard Payne and there isn’t another quarterback on the Bearcats roster with significant playing time. Luckily for Coach Lipsey and staff, Arrott exudes confidence. He might not be the biggest, fastest or strongest kid, but he makes plays and he will rally the team behind him ready to run through a wall. Behind Arrott is Briley Clinton. The biggest knock on Briley is that he might not be as athletic as Carter. Putting this in perspective, Briley is a Regional Qualifier in pole vault so the athleticism is there. He has an underrated accuracy that we should be able to see plenty of this season. If the Bearcats get ahead early in games Briley will see the field in order to minimize injury risk to Arrott. If Ballinger looks to go deeper in their rotation the easy bet is Martin Quiroga at 3rd string QB. The Junior is the only other player on Varsity with high school starting QB experience and Coach Lipsey might be eager to see if Martin has what it takes to lead the team in 2022.
Running back is maybe the most exciting unknowns on the team. After 3 years of Cooper Bean being the man in the backfield and another with Garrett Dixon there is a plethora of talent here for Ballinger, with a lot of unanswered questions. First up is Beau Perkins who is listed at 6’1″ and 230. This listing is not generous as Beau might be taller and larger than what he has listed. He is larger than most of the linemen Ballinger will field this season, but he has speed to break it open when he see’s green. Nathan McDuffee is a Junior running back on his second Varsity season. After playing almost every snap of football offensively and defensively through 7th, 8th and 9th grade year Nathan was expected to be a big contributor during his Sophomore season. Unfortunately due to Covid this didn’t happen as Nathan was quarantined three different times throughout the 2020 season and missed all but a handful of games. Zack Canada was the benefactor of Nathans misfortune as the Sophomore running back moved to Varsity during his Freshman year. Limited snaps leaves a lot of question marks for these two running backs, but with all three being completely different runners it will allow the offensive staff to get very creative this year. Jayden Fuentes also returns after missing last season due to concussions. If healthy he provides a lot of energy for Ballinger.
Wide receiver is most likely the most inexperienced on the team, with the most question marks. Gone are JoeMarcus Guerrero, Weston Rollwitz and Gavin Martinez. Now it is Landen Landers, Luke Rollwitz, Trey Matschek, Blake Collom and others that will have to step up to fill the void. Ballinger will use a challenging non-district schedule to find out who wants to play and who is happy being on the team. Expect there to be a steady string of rotations and offensive package players. Interesting to note is that Beau Perkins leads all returners in receptions last season and he isn’t even a receiver. This group has a lot to prove. Luckily they have quarterbacks capable of getting them the ball.
Offensive Line/Defensive Line
Similar to the wide receivers the offensive line has a lot to prove. Gone are multiple three year starters in Winn Belk and Toliver. Gone are major rotational pieces like Matthew Foster who had an outstanding Senior year. Those that are back, Castleberry, Nakia Villarreal and Daniel Medina will have to prove that the successes they’ve had in the past were not due to playing next to a young man with multiple college offers, but due to their own ability. Aiden Knight finally gets a chance to show what he has on Varsity after having some downright scary performances on JV last season. He would have my vote to have a Foster type of impact this season due to his size and quickness. This is a kid that is over 6′ close to 200 pounds and still runs Cross Country. Also have to mention two kids, Monte McKinnon and Julian Tapia that spent much of their first four years of football as rotational receivers. Along with natural growth and offseason work ethic these two put on the size to play on the line and McKinnon looks to go from being a backup receiver and linebacker to a starter on the offensive line.
Linebackers and Defensive Backs
Linebacker should be the strength of the defense. Not only do they have the most starters returning it is also the position that Defensive Coordinator Marvin Wilson coaches. The entire defense feeds off of what the linebackers do and Wilson will have them active and attacking from the opening kickoff. As far as defensive backs go Carter Arrott will be the key to the defense as much as the offense. He has the most game experience playing safety, but he could possibly be the best corner on the team. Blake Collom is also a very strong corner. Landers has speed and should be tasked with covering many deep routes. Briley Clinton had two interceptions last season and with more playing time he might easily double that. He is probably my most underrated player on the team.
Later this week a game by game preview of the season.
Jim Ned story and photo gallery
FOOTBALL, VOLLEYBALL, CROSS COUNTRY, BAND! The schoolyear is in full swing!