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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

Bearcats tasked with filling holes with inexperience

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(Photo)
2012 Dexter Bearcats
sports@standard-democrat.com

DEXTER -- Filling the void left by graduates is simply part of the game.

Coaches are tasked with the job every year with some being worse than others. If you're lucky, you'll have players that can step in, know the system and make the transition a little easier.

In Dexter's case for the 2012 season, they drew the short end of the stick when it comes to experience.

"This is probably the most inexperienced team I've ever had," Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said. "We've had large senior classes before that have graduated, but maybe not this many starters have graduated."

The Bearcats, who ended up 9-2 including a 29-28 loss to Park Hills in the playoffs last season, return just four seniors with varsity experience and will have to replace the production of the most prolific offense in Dexter school history to boot.

For those four seniors, the role of leaders were thrust upon them, whether they wanted it or not.

"You kind of got to be (a leader)," senior running back Ryan Joyner said. "I'm one of the few starters coming back and one of the few seniors. It's just kind of something you throw on your shoulders. You got to bear it."

Joyner, who was an all-region, second team linebacker a year ago, will be the feature back for the Bearcats, who say goodbye to former tailbacks Josh Overall, Nick Summers and Alex Cliff.

Along with Joyner, senior Brad Wick, who is coming off of an injury last season, and sophomore Dylan Bazarian will share touches in the backfield.

"We have good, young bodies in that position," Pixley said. "We just hope to be good enough up front to give them some space to get into and run."

Seeing the majority of his snaps from the other side of the ball, Joyner expects a transitional period going from defense to offense.

"You just kind of have to switch gears and get used to holding the ball," Joyner said. "Holding the ball and running for touchdowns."

With the efforts of those three running backs, and the output by former quarterback, Cody Stevens, Dexter piled up 3,140 yards -- a new Bearcat rushing record.

Although their backs got the carries, Dexter's offensive line can be given full credit for their record-breaking year.

All-conference and all-region selections Zach Lacey and Brandon Moore, as well as all-conference pick Jacob Stephens anchored the Bearcats offensive line.

This year, Dexter has just one returning starter.

"We're really young on the line this year," fellow all-conference receiver Chase Young said. "That's definitely going to be a big thing for us this year just to see what our line can do."

Dylan Aaron is the only returning lineman from last season, which helped Stevens amass both 1,000 yards on the ground and in the air -- the first Dexter quarterback to accomplish that feat in school history.

"It's been hard. It's been very hard," Pixley said about rebuilding his offensive and defensive lines. "It's went from no shape, to a better shape but we're not there. We're a long way from it. Those other guys up front they have to play up to the level that (Aaron) played at.

"The degree of explosion they have to have coming off in the running game, it's not quite where it needs to be right now."

The position occupied by Stevens will be taken over by junior DJ Dowdy.

Stevens may cast the biggest shadow when it comes to production from a season ago passing for 1,534 yards and 19 touchdowns as well as rushing for 1,291.

But just like the rest of his team, Dowdy comes in with limited experience as a signal caller.

"He's no different than anybody else -- he's just as inexperienced as anybody else and he's going to have some growing pains and he's going to have some hard lessons just like everybody else but he's doing fine," said Pixley. "He's gotten better and better as we've went on. He's really worked some mechanics out in his throwing and he's throwing the ball real nice right now."

Dexter's backup quarterback will be a freshman, Ethan Stevens, which is the second time in Pixley's coaching career that has ever happened.

"It's a very inexperienced football team -- especially on a Friday night level," Dexter head coach Aaron Pixley said. "We have a lot of kids that have played football all of their life, but very few have played varsity football and it's different. It's totally different and they're finding that out."

The Bearcats also lost all-state receiver Tyler Miller as well as all-region selection Jacob Lee.

Young was the slot receiver for the Bearcats a year ago, serving as their third option. He now takes on the role of primary receiver.

"It a lot of pressure on you," said Young. "Everybody younger than you is looking up to you, you just have to know what routes you're running and you have to run them hard. Everybody's eyes are on you."

Getting the experience needed can happen just one way -- playing on Friday nights.

But Joyner hoped Friday night's jamboree at East Prairie High School could be used as a filler until they begin their season this Friday on the road against Ste. Genevieve.

"You want to get as much experience as you can in practice," Joyner said. "I think Friday (during the jamboree) will let them get real good experience and show them how what it's like to be out there. I think Ste. Gen will be a real good test on them too to see if they can come together."