When the Brookland-Cayce Bearcats won three of their last five games in 2012, breaking into the Class 3A playoffs and narrowly losing to Marlboro County in the first round, coach Rusty Charpia knew his team was headed in the right direction.
“We ended on a good note,” said Charpia, entering his second year at the Bearcats’ helm. “All in all, we like the direction we are headed.”
After a confidence-building 2011, the Bearcats focused on getting stronger and more athletic.
“By focusing on those things, we may have the chance to be even more competitive this season, and maybe instead of scaring somebody in the first round, we actually beat somebody in the first round,” Charpia said.
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The Bearcats have 18 lettermen returning, including several key contributors on offense.
Back under center for the Bearcats is quarterback Ezekiel Walker, who was injured for the final two games last season.
Walker gave the Bearcats’ passing game teeth, and this season he has improved on his natural skill.
“He’s become a leader for us and he’s gotten a lot bigger and stronger,” Charpia said. “We feel like he can lead our guys to a first winning season in maybe eight years.”
Lining up wide, B.J. Dewalt and DeAndre Asbury-Heath provide solid targets for Walker, and Charpia said running backs Jamil Hamin and Dontavius Lykes have been impressive.
Brookland-Cayce did not win any of its scrimmages, but Charpia was encouraged by the team’s offensive momentum.
“We moved the ball well and we feel like if we can keep that up we can make some noise in this region,” he said.
They are still running their no-huddle offense, and they have switched to a 3-5 defense, but the biggest change for the Bearcats is Charpia’s decision to play many of their strongest athletes on both sides of the ball.
“I like to two-platoon, but we just don’t have the athletes, so our best athletes are going to have to play both ways,” he said.
So Walker, DeWalt, Heath, and Lykes will all play on defense, along with transfer linebacker Chris Padgett and Marquis Inabinet.
To guard against fatigue, the Bearcats gave extra attention to conditioning, practicing twice daily for three weeks.
“I think we’re going to be OK; it’s staying away from injuries that’s going to be our biggest concern,” Charpia said.