District openers don’t get much better than tonight’s Bell County at Wayne County match-up.
The Bobcats I(3-2) have swept all of their district games since joining District 4 in Class 3A two seasons ago. The Cardinals (5-0) came in to the season as the favorites to win the district and have been impressive in winning their first five games.
“This is supposed to be the best team they’ve ever had. They were good last year and they’ve got just about everybody back from that team. They got a lot of hype in the preseason and they’ve lived up to it at 5-0,” Bell coach Wayne Mills said. “Hopefully we can present a tough challenge for them and build off the momentum we got last week (a 34-12 win at Knox Central). That can be the turning point of our season.”
Bell County actually hasn’t lost to a district opponent since 2006 when there were in District 7, Class 4A. Mills said this year’s team isn’t concerned about that streak.
“Our kids don’t talk a lot about that. We just know that if we can get a win it’s really going to help us out as far as the playoffs and staying at home. We’re just worried about winning the district this year, that’s first in our mind,” he said.
The Cardinals use the spread formation with senior quarterback Tyler Guffey a threat in the passing game and on the ground. He’s completed 69-of-116 passes for 1240 yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions on the season and leads Wayne with 309 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 51 carries.
“The key to their offense is the quarterback, Guffey. He’s a three-year starter, a big strong kid with a nice arm and he can pull it down and run. They’ve got some big kids up front and a couple of good receivers he can throw to, but Guffey is the glue that makes them stick together.”
Jason Perkins leads the Wayne County receivers with 27 catches for 592 yards and six touchdowns. Logan Gardner has 21 catches for 275 yards with two scores and Alan Brown is a big-play threat with 301 yards and four TDs on just 14 catches. Kadameion Branham (44-253) and Junior Ruiz (25-132) are the Cardinal running backs.
Bell County’s rushing game is led by junior Austin Caldwell and sophomore Chase Woolum. Caldwell has 381 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries with Woolum running the ball 53 times for 279 yards and seven touchdowns. Fullback Corey Swanner has added 19 rushes for 158 yards.
While the Bobcats don’t have the record or the numbers that Wayne County does, Bell has been tested by a tougher schedule. The Cardinals have a 44-14 win over a pretty good Monroe County team, they downed a good Class A Williamsburg team 40-12 and just beat 5A Southwestern 42-20 last week.
“I just hope we can be physical against them. They’ve not faced a team that just lined up and tried to run it at them. We’ll do that and we can spread it out some, too,” Mills said. “Hopefully we can find a weakness. We’re battle-tested, we’ve been through some adversity and our guys are ready for that type of environment.”
The Bobcats will still be without injured starters Evan Brock and Hayden Gilbert. Brock is likely out for the season after having knee surgery while Gilbert should just miss one more game with his concussion. Dylan Cox will play sparingly as he nurses a shoulder injury. Quarterback Peyton Collett is a go after playing through a knee injury last week.
“Peyton has had a good week of therapy and worked hard to get back. He’s not 100-percent, but he’s close to it. He’s toughing it out with a tender knee. He wanted to play and he’s been able to practice,” Mills said.
A big leg up in the district will go to the winner of tonight’s game, which kicks off in Monticello at 7:30 p.m.