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Blue-Gold scrimmage tests Bulldogs’ wheels
August 26, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Garret Conn (2) chases down Dalton Scott (3) during the Gering Bulldogs scrimmage last week at Memorial Stadium in Gering.

Despite spitting rain and swirling wind, parents and students filled the stands at Memorial Stadium last Friday night (August 19), to watch as the 2016 Gering Bulldogs took to a damp field for a contest to determine roster spots, and implement second-year Head Coach Todd Ekart’s plan for the season.

Don’t be fooled by the size of Gering’s team, or some of its players. The old adage that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in that dog – in this case, Bulldog – the players revealed a slight measure of that last week.

“The scrimmage gave us a better assessment,” Ekart said. “It’s hard to tell with just cones, and bags; There will be some separation when the game becomes a little more physical.”

The game-type atmosphere told Ekart and his assistant coaches a little more with the players going full speed. Last year, the season ended well at Sidney, where the Bulldogs suffered a narrow defeat to the Red Raiders, 13-9, on October 23, 2015. Despite the loss, Gering took it as a positive.

Sidney was Ekart’s previous home for four years before he came to Gering for the 2015 season. In four seasons, he racked up two Class B state playoff appearances. In his first season with Gering, the team made marked improvements despite going winless, 0-9. Coincidentally, in his first year at Sidney in 2010, the Raiders finished with an identical 0-9 record.

This past summer for four weeks, during a voluntary training camp, Gering players had some time to increase their strength in the weight room, and work on fundamentals.

“Some thought it was a lot of hard work,” Ekart said. “The ones who did, fell by the wayside.” But Ekart felt good about those who committed to putting in quality time. For some players it showed at the scrimmage. “It’s going to be a much improved season,” he said. “We have over 50 players. By contrast, their neighbors to the north at Scottsbluff High School have nearly 100 players. The rival Bearcats host Gering in its seventh game of the season on October 7.

One unusual aspect for the Bulldogs is having depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. In some skill positions, he said his Bulldogs were a little shallow. In a run-first Wing-T offense, that’s not necessarily a liability. In Nebraska football, the players deal with the cold and wind. “We’ll throw when we need to,” he said.

In that sticking-to-fundamentals mentality, Ekert doesn’t let on there’ll be any wrinkles or trick plays. “We’ll stick with the basics,” he said. “There will be some reverses, fake kicks and punts, but at opportune moments.”

In looking to leaders on the field, Ekart said, “We have a lot of returnees on offense – about 10 guys who started in games last year, and about six guys on defense. They were young; they saw some of that starting time when they were real young.”

Initial practices have been good, but (players) “started to drag (two weeks ago). Now, that school has started (the first day was August 18), they’re a little more dialed in,” he said.

In Ekart’s first year, “there was a whole new system.” Guys had to adapt. “Now, the expectations have been set, it’s time to fine tune some stuff. The playbook may not be as big this year. We may pare it down to make it more learnable. Come Monday, we’ll try something. On Tuesday and Wednesday, if it still doesn’t look good, we will take it out, and we’ll do the things we do best.”

In their first test of the season, on September 2, the Bulldogs face Northwest High School in Grand Island. “They were a playoff team last year. So, it will be a tough game. How we play them could really set the tone and tempo for the entire season, and give us some building blocks,” Ekart said. “The kids here have really bought in. Sometimes it’s hot and cold; it’s one of those things. This game is tough. It’s not for everyone.”

This year, Ekart starts out with a combined coaching record of 16-32. Among returning starters and those players expected to see large amounts of playing time, offensive and defensive lineman 6-foot-4 Wade Blue tops the list. Ekart describes him as a “high motor kid.”

Senior running back and linebacker Skylar Mueller, is the second on the team in overall tackles, and look for senior wide receiver Dalton Scott to electrify fans. He is an excellent kick returner, according to Ekart. Other standouts include, back Dylan Radzymski, linebacker Cody Ybarra, linemen Tim Bernhardt, Carmelo Ozuna, Zach Marsh, Seth DeBoer, Nic Watkins, Quarterback Tyler Pszanka, who at 6-foot-5 can see clearly over the line and down field. Running backs Riley Grote and Jacob Rocheleau round out the list of top players.

Team Schedule:

Friday, Aug. 26: at G.I. Northwest, 6 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 2: vs. McCook, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 9: at Hastings, 6 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 16: at Chadron, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 23: vs. Aurora, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 30: at Lexington, 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 7: at Scottsbluff, 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 14: vs. Alliance, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 21: vs. Sidney, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 28: State Playoffs TBD

Courtesy photo The 2016 Gering High School Football Team members are, seniors Dalton Scott, Austin Abbott, Chris Palomo, Daniel Marshall, Dan Merritt, Skylar Mueller, Riley Grote, Dylan Radzymski, Trent Rahmig, Zach Marsh, Seth DeBoer, Jose Valencia; juniors Tyler Pszanka, Julian Corona, Enrique Saenz, Jacob Rocheleau, Cody Ybarra, Wade Blue, Jacob Schmidt, Brandon Jurado, Kenny Witcofski, Quintien Onstott, Nick Watkins; sophomores Quinton Janecek, Garrett Conn, Brendon Williams, Logan Murdock, Brandyn Larsen, Justin Scott, John Castrejon-Lopez, Logan Buhr, Tim Bernhardt, Austin Duncan, Max Closson, Jeremiah Contreras, Tommy Ganos.
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