Our Training Camp Road Trip continues, as we begin District 2-3A Div. II with the Henrietta Bearcats.
They made it to the playoffs last season, but lost in the first round. With the talent this team has coming into the 2015 season, the Bearcats plan to go much further.
"We've got to step it up," says senior quarterback Riley Watson. "None of us were glad with the way the season ended last year. We want to go further than one round this year. We don't want to stop short; we want to go two, three, four rounds deep."
The Bearcats were 8-2 last regular season, but fell in the Bi-District round to Idalou, 65-13 in a game where many saw the Bearcats as favorites.
"We went into Idalou, I think we kind of underrated them," said senior lineman Kirkland Hoff. "And us as players we weren't ready for that. And we're not going to ever let that happen again."
Henrietta returns its quarterback and his top two receiving options from last season, so they want to build on the success they had last year on offense.
"We're going to be a little bit more versatile, I think," said Head Coach Byron West. "And hopefully we will be more productive. You know, we got decent last year, and hopefully we can build on that."
"We were all young last year," said Watson. "I mean, we did lose a couple of key lineman, but I feel like the younger guys coming up are going to work really hard. We have a great receiving corps this year and we have a great back field. I expect a lot."
The biggest question on offense will be in the trenches. The Bearcats lost some players from last year, and they are counting on the young guys to step up.
"Most of our specialty-type positions are back," said Coach West. "We've got those guys, our backfield is back so the biggest thing we have to do is work on our offensive line and make sure we gel up there."
"I think we got a couple of questions on the offensive line that we are going to answer pretty quickly," said Hoff. "I think we've got some guys, some underclassman that are going to step up and be very great for us."
The Bearcats play in a top-heavy district with Eastland and Cisco picked to finish in front of them. But Henrietta gets those two tough matchups at home, and they think that can give them an added edge.
"We play pretty well away, so I am not sure if it's an exact home advantage," West said. "But the rest part of it, the mental factor of not getting on the bus and riding for a long ways, will help. And we just have to come play."
With last year's disappointing end fresh in everyone's mind, the coaches have been preaching to the team finish the job.
"We felt like we let ourselves down when we went into playoffs, so we have been building on that," said West. "The kids talk about that all the time and it's kind of a building process for us. We want to go to the next level so we can play and keep going and represent well. We didn't feel like we did that last year so its something that's really been burning our gut for a while."
"We've just got to work towards the end of practice," Watson added. "When people are getting tired, you've just got to push that extra 100 percent effort. That's the only way you can finish. You've got to be able to finish in the 4th quarter like you started the first quarter, and that's what we are really working on this year."
The Bearcats open the year on the road at Electra on August 28th.