GRAFTON—Although the Grafton Bearcats football team finished last season with a disappointing record of 1-9, veteran head coach Rich Bord is still very optimistic about the upcoming season with all the offensive weapons he now has at his disposal.
“We are loaded at the skill positions,” said Bord, who is entering his fifth season as head coach and 39th overall on the GHS coaching staff. “We are as good as far as numbers go, since probably the ‘08 team. We can run the ball in space and catch it, as well.”
Handling those responsibilities will start in the backfield with senior quarterback Blake Moore, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury suffered outside of football.
“Blake brings a toughness and leadership at that position,” Bord said. “He throws the ball extremely well, but I still feel pretty comfortable when he decides to tuck it and run with it instead. He’s a big, physical kid, and he kind of reminds you of Cameron Gallaher (former GHS QB) back there.”
Moore will have plenty of help around him this season, being able to hand off to either running back James Hoskins (junior), fullback Eli Shumaker (junior), or fullback Kenny Humphries (freshman) if a run play is called.
“Eli has looked great at fullback,” said an optimistic Bord. “And our second fullback (Humphries) is a freshman with a ton of potential.”
Catching Moore’s passes will again be Kaden Delaney (junior), Justin Spiker (junior), Hoskins, as well as sophomore Arron Barker. Tanner Moats (junior) will also be making the transition to receiver from quarterback where he played last season but will continue to serve as a backup quarterback, if the need arises.
“I can’t imagine there are many teams around that have a second quarterback as good as Tanner,” Bord stated. “And if a situation arises where we would need to have him back there for some reason, I have absolutely no problem at all using him there.”
Bord said it’s tough to label any of his backs and receivers as just one thing because his Bearcats will continue running out of multiple formations and moving players around to get them favorable matchups against the competition.
And as with any great offense, moving the chains always begins with the players who do the dirty work along the line of scrimmage.
The offensive line, which has been battling some injuries in the preseason, will feature a mix of seniors Tyler Cozart, Ian Baker, Donovan Ware, Jonathan Ross and Mason Kinsey, and juniors Andrew Irvine, Clay Young, Mason Stevens, Xander Larew and Ben Bord.
And although the Bearcats were shorthanded going into their scrimmage against Pendleton County on Friday, Bord was pleased with the output he got out of the players who were able to see the field.
“The kids who lacked experience stepped in and played pretty well,” he noted. “The injuries have made it a little tough though. The depth I thought we were going to have is just not there yet.”
Defensively, the Bearcats will use many of the same players as on offense, and Bord said they plan on mixing up some things this season on the other side of the ball to show the opposition some different looks.
“I feel like again, if we have matchups where we have kids in space, we should win those matchups,” he explained. “We tackled well in the scrimmage, and as long as we can handle the physicality up front and limit teams throwing over the top of us, I feel really good about where we are.”
On special teams, Grafton will have to replace 1st-Team All-Big 10 and Honorable Mention All-State kicker/punter Joey Dingeldein, who signed with Fairmont State University after a successful career at GHS.
Assuming the punting responsibilities will more than likely be Delaney, while Bearcats’ sophomore Layne England looks to handle the extra points and field goals.
The Bearcats scrimmaged Pendleton County this past Friday at McKinney Field, and even though the Wildcats made the 2019 Class A semifinals (losing to eventual champion Wheeling Central) after rising to a #2 ranking, Bord was pleased overall with the performance of his team although he said there is always room for improvement.
“We just need to continue working on our execution on offense,” he stated. “We didn’t attack in the blocking schemes, and we struggled with the option. But our passing game looked solid, and once our running backs got hit a couple of times and got the jitters out, they were fine. I was pleased, but not satisfied.”
After the first week of the regular season was wiped out due to COVID-19 adjustments, the Bearcats will now begin their season with a home contest against East Fairmont this Friday. Due to the shuffling of schedules around the state because of the current pandemic, Grafton was fortunate to score seven home games this season. Their three away contests will be against Liberty on Sept. 25, Richwood on Oct. 9, and Braxton County on Oct. 16.