Kickoff time: Bobcats face tough opening assignment
By Scott Loftis
After an abbreviated preseason and without a dress rehearsal, the Berryville Bobcats will open their 2020 high school football season Friday at Bobcat Stadium. To add to the degree of difficulty, the Bobcats will be facing a Cedarville team that’s expected to contend for a conference championship.
Berryville, which finished 3-7 last season, was scheduled to play a benefit game last Friday at Lincoln. The Bobcats were en route to Lincoln when the game was canceled.
“It’s not surprising, but it’s not good,” Berryville coach Doug Shott said. “Like I told the kids, this is going to be one of those seasons where you just don’t know. We’ve kind of been trying to mimic other teams a little bit this past week, and we’ll continue to do so. I don’t like it, but what do you do? You can’t control it.”
So, Berryville’s first look at an opposing team will be Friday’s opener against Cedarville. The Pirates went 6-4 last season and put up some impressive numbers along the way. Then-junior running back Kelin Mitchell averaged 13.6 yards per attempt and had nine games with at least 100 yards rushing while gaining a total of 1,157 yards, while sophomore fullback Darryl Kattich gained 1,511 yards and had nine 100-yard games. As a team, Cedarville averaged more than 380 yards per game on the ground.
With Mitchell and Kattich back, Shott said the Pirates’ offensive philosophy won’t be a mystery.
“They’ve lost a few linemen up front, but they’ve got the nucleus of what it takes to be a good team coming back, so it’s going to be a real challenge for us to start with,” Shott said. “They’re mostly a running team. They will throw the ball a little bit, but they’re going to line up and run the buck sweep. The fullback’s going to run the iso. They’ll throw it a little bit here and there, but pretty much they’re going to try to get the ball in the hands of the two good running backs.”
Berryville will counter with an offense led by senior quarterback J.D. Smith, a three-year starter. Running backs Dominic Henry and Jaeden Tanksley are also returning starters and junior fullback Zach Boaz has drawn praise in preseason practice.
The Bobcats entered last season hoping to use the passing game to bolster their offense, but a season-ending knee injury to their top receiver hindered those plans. Shott said he’d still like to throw the ball.
“We always want to,” Shott said. “You want to do it when you want to, not when you have to.”
Potential targets for Smith this year, in addition to senior tight end Jarrett Stringer, are junior receivers Kennon Helmlinger, Harley Tittsworth and Freddy Roque.
“We feel good about Kennon,” Shott said. “Kennon’s a year older and he’s continued to grow and mature and get better. I think he’s a good target. We think Harley Tittsworth is a good target. Freddy Rogue has really developed out there. We feel good about it, but again, in our system, you want to do it when you want to, not when you have to. The game situation kind of predicates that.”
Friday’s kickoff at Bobcat Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.