Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Little Locker Room Bullentin Board Material

Here's an article from on Bridgewater and how they plan to unseat our Tigers in 2010.

ODAC Title on Eagles' Radar
By Ken Bosserman
Sports Writer

BRIDGEWATER — An Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship is on the minds of the Bridgewater Eagles as the 2010 football season approaches. After finishing second to Hampden-Sydney last year, the Eagles, who are coming off a 7-3 campaign, have that Oct. 9 homecoming date with the Tigers already in focus.

Hampden-Sydney has been picked to finish first again this year, but the Eagles are a close second, while Emory & Henry is right behind.

What makes this year's schedule so intriguing is that the Tigers and Eagles kick off the league campaign on that early October date.

"I don't know of a great (conference) team, and I don't know of a bad one," Eagles coach Michael Clark said Wednesday at the team's media day at Nininger Hall. "The team that wins it will be the one that maintains focus and consistency over seven weeks.

"We have Hampden-Sydney out of the gate," he said. "We will be playing at home, and we will take our chances."  Clark thinks there is a great deal of parity in the league. He points to Emory & Henry along with Randolph-Macon as other teams that have strong programs.

Looking at the Eagles, Clark thinks there is some work to do.  "It's a year where we have to rebuild a lot," he said. "We have a team highlighted by people at key positions who will give tough matchups."

Offensively, while the team returns its starting quarterback and its top running back and receiver, it also has lost four linemen. Still there is a solid core of players returning to an offense that scored nearly 30 points a game with 75 percent of it back.

Defensively, the Eagles were hampered by injuries in 2009. This year there will be a lot of newcomers challenging for positions.  "Our speed shows on defense," Clark said. "We're not real big, or deep on the perimeter."

Bridgewater will look to its solid senior class for success. Another key will be turnovers, or lack thereof.
"If we don't turn the ball over, we will have a chance to win in the fourth quarter," Clark said.  "The kids have worked on their own. We will now try to mesh them in a three-week window into a good football team. We will have to be ready at the end of September (for the league schedule)."

Offensively, former Robert E. Lee High School standout Thomas "Teley" Tate returns to lead the ground game. Now a senior, Tate rushed 159 times last year for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns.  "He's a great story — a kid worth cheering for," Clark said. "We count on him. If you give him the ball enough, it makes you look smart."

"I want to be more of a vocal leader this year, and get the offense going," Tate said. "I feel I can build on last year. The team has a good chance of winning if we stick together and go 100 percent every game. We will have to limit the turnovers and take care of the football."  Joining Tate is junior Nathaniel Jackson, who rushed for 248 yards on 58 carries, and senior Darrin McKenzie, who the Eagles hope will stay healthy. "We haven't seen how good he is," Clark said.

Returning at quarterback is Hagan Driskell, who completed 138 of 248 passes for 1,896 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.

"He knows best what we are trying to do," Clark said. "But he will have to be more secure with the football."

"My personal goal is to win," Driskell said. "And I want to help. I don't care how many touchdown passes I throw — 20 or five. I just want to win. I have more confidence coming off a winning year, compared to the year before."

Also competing for time at quarterback is former Riverheads standout, junior Jacob Hutchinson, who is a running threat.

"He's the best athlete in the group," the Bridgewater coach said. "He's an on-the-line threat."  Hutchinson, who saw some action last year, is recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, but thinks he will be ready to play.

"It's still a little sore, and I'm trying to get it loose," he said.

Adding depth at quarterback is sophomore transfer Carlos Gonzalez from Florida International, who Clark describes as a "big arm kid".  Heading the receivers is senior Tyler Beiler, who was Driskell's favorite target last season. He pulled down 46 catches for 843 yards and nine touchdowns. He had five 100-yard games, and one three-touchdown contest. Also back is senior Rudy Jackson, who had 11 catches for 119 yards.

"Our first game will set the tone for the entire season," Beiler said. "We will have to fine tune things. Everyone has worked hard, and winning the conference is our first goal."

While the Eagles have marquee players back on offense, there are some concerns. Clark has to develop the tight end spot, as well as the offensive line where there's only one seasoned veteran, junior James Clark.  "We have skilled kids who will make the offensive line look better," he said. "They will force the development of those kids."

On defense, the Eagles will have to replace several linemen and almost the entire secondary. But the core of linebackers returns, led by seniors T.J. Montague and Scottie Littles.  "We lost four of our five defensive ends from last year, but we recruited the position very hard," Clark said. "And our front five are all salty kids, and understand their positions. Our defense is a more athletic group that will have to become more offensive minded."

The punting game will be handled by returning junior Thomas Kessler, while junior Will Davis returns as the place kicker.

Bridgewater has nearly 150 players in its football program. Local products include, besides Hutchinson and Tate, sophomore Tyler Staton of Rockbridge County, freshmen Michael Cook, Broc May and Aaron McMillion of Fort Defiance, and freshman Michael Hicklin of Stuarts Draft.

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