A new era of Bethlehem Christian Academy football officially begins Friday, and the Knights are hoping it will be a stable, sustained and successful one under proven veteran head coach Bruce Lane.

The Knights will kick off their 2020 campaign Friday when they host Strong Rock Christian School of Locust Grove at 7:30 p.m. — their first outing under Bruce Lane who has won over 200 games in a head coaching career spanning back more than 30 seasons and a pair of South Carolina Independent School Association state titles in 2005 and 2013.

“Our kids are, just like every other high school football player around the state is right now, very excited to get this season going,” Lane said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together the last few weeks and the extra couple of weeks (resulting from a delayed start to the season due to the coronavirus pandemic) has actually benefitted us. We were able to get a scrimmage in against another team, and I feel good about where the team is.

“Now, we’ve just got to get out there and play a full game against somebody and see what we need to work on.”

Lane is BCA’s third head coach in as many seasons, but he inherits a team that does return some key players and the coaching staff of former Knights head coach Gus Felder, who was hired as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Carolina Panthers. And while youth and inexperience plagued the Knights for much of a one-win season in 2019, Lane hopes those lumps they took will benefit them as a new year begins.

On paper, the Knights do have things more shored up around the field as senior quarterback Ethan Guthas returns to anchor the offense and has shown improvement since stepping into the starting role. He gave Lane more reason to be optimistic about the offense in a preseason scrimmage win at John Hancock Academy when he went 9-of-11 passing, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

Senior running back Chad Norwood and junior wide receiver Ty Whiting are other key weapons while the Knights also boast some veteran experience on the offensive line.

Lane said he hopes the greater level of varsity experience will help his team play with efficiency in addition to playing with effort and enthusiasm.

“I think regardless of how we line up and match up with our opponent, in football it all goes back to blocking, tackling and execution,” he said. “Those are things we hope we are going to be very good on Friday. When you look at keys to picking up a victory, for us it’s about eliminating turnovers and penalties and not giving up the big play.”

One crucial area for the Knights will be in the kicking game, where the team lost two-year starting placekicker Maggie Mauck to graduation but has some more seasoning in other spots. Sophomore Brady Logan is a first-year football player for BCA who will likely handle the bulk of the extra-point, field-goal and kickoff duties. Guthas is back as the team’s punter and has been consistent in preseason camp, Lane said, while Whiting and Chandler Cavoretto are holding down the fort as the snappers.

“All of those different components have to come together for us,” Lane said, “and you also have to consider one of the toughest skills in the game is being able to field kicks. And we’ve got a variety of good skill people we feel comfortable with there.”

With Strong Rock being a GHSA school and not having a preseason scrimmage, the Knights haven’t had a chance to see the 2020 team on film, but the Patriots’ offense, according to Lane, figures to be versatile with some wing-T and spread mixed in.

Junior quarterback Brady Sanders returns to pilot Strong Rock’s offense after throwing for 919 yards last season while junior Aaron Bright leads the way in the backfield. Sanders, who will be looking to improve on a five touchdown-to-eight interception ratio from a year ago, will likely look to get the ball to his two leading receivers from last year in seniors Hunner Lawrence and Cole Ramsey. Lawrence, also a starting linebacker, leads the Patriots’ defense after registering a team-high 98 tackles and 10 sacks in 10 games.

“There’s a lot of unknowns with the first game because you’re not totally sure what a team is going to do year-to-year, based on personnel,” Lane said. “We’ve kind of split time preparing for them. Last week, we focused on their run game, but with them listing a lot of receivers on their roster, we’re thinking we may see a little bit more spread for them. We’ve just got to be ready to play and be able to adjust.

“Overall, we’re looking forward to Friday night. After there’s been so much uncertainty, everyone’s looking to try to return to some sense of normal and put some stability back in our lives throughout the school community and the community as a whole.”

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