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Bethel Returns 16 Starters And Drops To 2A Class

 

September 3, 2020

When the Bethel Wildcats travel to Meeker this Friday for a 7 pm kickoff, they will resume a rivalry game that hasn't been played since 2009, when the current seniors were first graders.  They will also return to Class 2A football for the first time since 2008, having spent the last decade in Class 3A. 

PREVIEW

Fourth-year head coach Joey Ginn (8-22) is excited to begin. "I feel like we're a playoff team in Class 2A; we were an eyelash away from the playoffs last year," Ginn said.  The 'Cats return seven offensive and nine defensive starters from a team that finished 5-5, marking the best record since 2007, when Bethel first qualified for the playoffs. Ginn believes his team will compete this year. 

"Our goal is to get to week eleven, but we think we can finish one or two in the district." Ginn believes the general opinion is that the top two teams in the district are Washington and Purcell, but that Christian Heritage, Lexington, and Community Christian will also be good. Crooked Oak and Holdenville round out the rest of the district. 

Two players the Wildcats will miss from last year's team are quarterback Gunner Smith and receiver/safety Devin Acklin, who finished as Bethel's first-ever all-stater. Smith threw for 3,331 yards and 37 touchdowns last year. Acklin was a thousand-yard receiver and had 84 tackles and 5 interceptions. Ginn is not worried, however. "We moved senior Jesse Tucker (6-2 175) from his starting receiver position to quarterback. He's been our backup at that position since his freshman year, and he's shown glimpses of being really good, including a 98-yard touchdown run against Sulphur last year. Jesse has a football IQ, he's coachable, and he won games for us in JV." 

Senior Drae Wood, a 4-year starter, returns as the primary receiving threat. Ginn is optimistic about Wood's potential this season. "Drae's a dude. He bought into the weight room after his sophomore year. He's a physical blocker and fast. He can take a screen and go eighty." Wood has caught 138 passes in his career for 1,923 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Juniors Corey Metcher and Dez Loving will share the running back duties. Metcher ran for 803 yards last year and caught 35 passes for 459 yards out of the backfield, scoring 13 total touchdowns. Ginn is enthusiastic about his offensive line, which includes senior Krisdon Compton (6-2 245), younger brother CJ Compton, a sophomore, (6-6 325), junior Dom Contreras (6-3 225), and 3-year starter senior Tyler Roberts (6-1 215). 

The Wildcats transitioned to the 4-3 defense IN week 9 last season. All three linebackers return in 2020: Loving, fellow senior LW Moore, and Metcher. Ginn is excited about his defensive end, sophomore Bronc Robbins (6-6 210), saying, "He's a long-range kid, and at 6-6 he will be a great rush end for us." Junior Gage Porter returns at his cornerback position. Ginn said, "Porter is our best matchup guy. Whoever we play, we put him on their best receiver." 

Senior Gage Nessell recorded 100 tackles last season at safety as a part-time starter. "Nessell made more tackles on kickoffs than any kid I've ever been around." Ginn is the team's defensive coordinator as well as its head coach. He coaches receivers on offense. His assistants are offensive coordinator Brandon Blizzard (offensive line), Kyle Fowler (quarterbacks and cornerbacks), James Price (defensive tackles and running backs), Daltyn Zimmerman (safeties and receivers), and graduate assistant Aaron Larney (defensive ends and tight ends).

GAME ONE: AT MEEKER

Are you ready for some football? After a COVID-shortened school year that saw no spring football, 7 on 7 passing leagues, or summer camps, the football season will finally begin for the Bethel Wildcats tomorrow (Friday) night as they travel to Meeker (1-0).

The Bulldogs defeated Stroud 45-7 during week zero last Friday night. Wildcats head football coach Joey Ginn will begin his fourth season without three-year starter Gunner Smith, who finished his career with 7,617 passing yards and 80 touchdowns.  Senior Jesse Tucker (6-2 175) will get his first start at quarterback, resuming an old rivalry with Meeker. 

The Bulldogs lead the series 11-7,but the teams haven't played each other for over a decade. In 2009, Bethel moved up to Class 3A, and that was the last time the two teams met. The 'Cats have returned to Class 2A for the 2020 season. Ginn's goals going into the season opener are to "stop the run on defense and be able to run when we're on offense. We want to get turnovers and not give them away. And we really want to win the kicking game; it's something we really believe is important." 

Ginn believes his team will be competitive this season and that their first game will be a challenge. "Meeker is a tough opening game for us. They were 8-4 last year, lost in the second round to the eventual state champion, and have a lot of kids back, including a career 4,900-yard running back." 

Both Bethel and Meeker operate out of spread formations, employing RPO (run-pass option) schemes. While Bethel will line up in a 4-3 defensive alignment, the Bulldogs will attempt to bring more pressure. The Meeker defense is a variation of the 1985 Chicago Bears infamous Bear Defense. Meeker has selected Bethel as its homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 7 pm.

 

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