Most high school head football coaches will say year two with a program is easier than year one in many aspects, and that’s the case for Bruce Lane as he enters his second season at Bethlehem Christian Academy.
For one, there’s much more continuity for BCA after Lane was the team’s third head coach in as many seasons last year. And with him and most of last year’s coaching staff back, the Knights also return much more game experience on both sides of the ball than a year ago and have more players with 38 on the roster entering their season opener Friday, Aug. 20, at Strong Rock Christian.
“We graduated some really good football players but have a strong nucleus returning,” said Lane, the veteran coach with more than 200 wins and a pair of state titles under his belt, whose team will look to improve upon a 2-8 mark in a transitional 2020 season when the Knights had to rebuild at a few positions. “There’s been a tweak here and there, but for the most part, the kids feel a little more comfortable. They have a little better grasp of what we’re doing, and the expectations and the culture of the program were really established last year.
“We feel really good about our football team, and from the standpoint of their attitude, it’s probably one of the best teams I’ve coached in terms of getting along with each other. That’s something that can’t be undersold as a quality in a team.”
The Knights do, in fact, stack up stronger on paper entering this season with at least seven starters back on offense and defense, along with all-region kicker Brady Logan. Lane believes the offensive line play will be “a real solid part of our game” with senior Logan Garmon returning at left tackle and senior Jesse Hutchison at center. Sophomore Cody Craft, who started at center as a freshman, has shifted over to left guard to shore up that side of the line, while Lane was hoping to use the Knights’ Friday, Aug. 13 preseason scrimmage against Providence Christian to gain more clarity on who will man the right side of the line.
The experience up front, particularly on the left side, should help ease in the team’s new starting quarterback, junior Ben Reed, who takes over for a graduated two-year starter in Ethan Guthas.
“He’s a little different, more mobile kind of guy,” Lane said of Reed. “Ethan had a strong arm and was a great leader for us. (With Reed) we’re going to move the pocket a little and spread it around a little more. But we’re confident in Ben and his leadership ability. He definitely had the opportunity to learn from a leader playing behind Ethan.”
Reed should also get a significant lift from senior wide receiver Ty Whiting, an all-state performer last fall who led the team with 31 catches for 456 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games.
“I think he is a good route runner. He does a great job high-pointing the ball and is able to out-jump defenders,” Lane said of Whiting. “His hands are really good. All those things that are important in being a receiver, he possesses those qualities. One thing we’re always stressing to our receivers is being a good blocker, being unselfish and running your route all the way through, even when you know you won’t get it thrown to you on that particular pattern. He does a great job of all of that.”
The Knights also return sophomore Lawson Wooten at tight end to give Reed another target, while Lane said several other players are developing and vying for playing time at receiver. Despite the graduation of star running back Chad Norwood (now at Berry College), the Knights bring back sophomore Joshua Adams, who came on strong at the end of last season when Norwood was limited by injuries, and senior Chandler Cavoretto at fullback.
Senior David Walterhouse, who missed last year with an ACL injury, could spell Reed some at quarterback if needed and is slated to start in BCA’s secondary along with senior returners Whiting and Jay Fulford.
Rod Robinson, who was BCA’s offensive coordinator two years ago and assisted with the offense again last season, has moved across the way to take over as defensive coordinator. The unit will again be anchored this year by Cavoretto, who was an all-region middle linebacker and led the team in tackles with 77 stops and a pair of sacks.
“Chandler has done a good job and is a real student of the game,” Lane said. “He’s a guy we can count on to watch film and spend time with the coaches trying to make sure we’re all on the same page with the players.”
Senior Jojo Adams will join Cavoretto in the linebacker corps after playing up front last season, while Garmon and Wooten will hold down the defensive end spots.
“We feel like we’ll have a lot of depth in the defensive interior; the big thing for us is to be able to develop kids who can play in a steady rotation with a smaller roster,” Lane said. “We’re going to play a lot of kids early on and play a lot of folks all over the place. We’ve got some real athletic kids like (sophomore) Elijah Goddard who had an outstanding track season this spring and will be figuring into the secondary equation as well as getting some touches on offense. Overall, there are just a lot of guys who were new last year and gained some experience and are now moving into spots where they’re aiming for more playoff time.”
Ultimately, Lane believes the pieces will be in place for the Knights to fare well in their four-team region, which includes defending state champion John Milledge Academy, and make a run at the 10-team state playoff field for GISA Class AAA. And they’ll lean on their experience and the things they learned from the mistakes they made last year to produce better results on the scoreboard.
“Football is sometimes made very complicated, but it really comes down to blocking and tackling,” Lane said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that and taking care of the football. You can be successful through different window-dressings, but those teams that have the best chance each Friday night to be successful are those who take care of the little things.
“We’re going to be a better football team, I think, just through this being year two and us (coaches) knowing the kids and their strengths. Last year’s senior class did a good job of leading, and we’re hopeful we can build on that foundation.
“Our goal is to be an elite program in our area and within our association. That is a process that isn’t just about adding water. It takes a little elbow grease. There was a huge investment made by our kids in the offseason, and I’m looking forward to seeing it play out this year.”
BCA 2021 SCHEDULE
Aug. 20 — at Strong Rock Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 27 — at Loganville Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3 — at Cross Keys, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 10 — at Augusta Prep, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 — at Southwest Georgia Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 24 — vs. Towns County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1 — vs. Cherokee Christian School, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 8 — Open
Oct. 15 — vs. Thomas Jefferson Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 22 — at John Milledge Academy, 7:30 p.m.*
Oct. 29 — at Westfield School, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 5 — vs. Creekside Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.*
*-denotes region game