Bulldogs determined to improve, have big season
     2012-08-23      By Terry Gaston   
During the Gering Bulldog football team’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium last Friday night, second-year head coach Jimmie Rhodes was sporting the team’s warm-up and season theme T-shirt that spelled out vertically “DETERMINED.”
After cracking into the Class B playoffs for the second time in three years last season, the Bulldogs are indeed determined to overcome some key skill player losses, continue the foundation of success that last year’s seniors built and continue to grow as a contender in not just District B-6 but in he state playoff realm.
“We started with a militia theme, and it evolved into that we are a group of citizens of our town that is determined to do the right thing,” said Rhodes, whose team opens the 2012 campaign Friday night on the road against Holdrege. The Bulldogs’ home opener is Aug. 31 against Chadron.
Rhodes added: “We are determined to be our best, not just on the football field but in our school, and we want to change the attitudes of the students and community, and in doing so we are going to rely on each other because we have small numbers out.”
The Bulldogs return five offensive starters, starting with 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior Dillon DeMott at quarterback. DeMott was an all-conference selection after completing 114 of 209 passes for 1,501 yards.
The backfield returns seniors James Guzman at running back and Nick Chitwood at fullback, while senior Walker Britsch is the top leading receiver. Junior center Blake Frye (6-2, 225 pounds) is the lone returnee on Gering’s offensive line.
Other players who are expected to step up offensively include 6-4, 185-pound Zac Bibb; 6-1, 195-pound Austin Ferguson; and 6-foot, 170-pound Jake Rexus in the receiving corps.
“We are going to be more of a ball control team,” Rhodes said. “We are going to give some guys the football who are playmakers. We have evolved from a set offense last year and we are starting to do more multiple sets. We will try to take advantage of our leverage and our personnel.”
Bibb, Ferguson and Rexus all return on defense at linebacker spots, three of eight experienced defenders.
Back in the secondary is junior cornerback Ryan Schwartzkopf (6-1, 165 pounds), who likely will be a receiver offensively as well, along with Britsch and Guzman. Frye again will anchor the Bulldogs’ defensive front, with Gage Winkler also returning on defense.
Junior Gage Smith, the Bulldogs’ dependable kicker last season, will add outside linebacker and running back duties.
Other key additions include Jeremy Eskam at safety and wide receiver; Elijah Timblin at linebacker and tight end; Brandon Breaster at receiver and outside backer; Riley Haug at receiver and corner; Colin Havenger, an offensive lineman/defensive end who transferred from Banner County; and Brandon Bernhardt and Alex Clossen on the lines.
After just two weeks of preseason practice, Rhodes said he liked what he saw in Friday night’s scrimmage.
“The attitude was that were expecting to be starting to get in shape, and I think we executed above average,” he said. “We just need to keep flying around the football.”
The Bulldogs dominated Holdrege in Gering’s home opener last season in taking a 27-6 victory, a game in which DeMott threw for 235 yards and four touchdowns, and Guzman ran for 53 yards on five carries.
“It will be different playing them in the first game, although we have in the past,” Rhodes said of the Dusters. “they are a tight end team, they like to play a quarterback zone, and defensively they do a four-man front with man and cover three in the secondary. We match up physically with them.
“We are excited about what we have,” Rhodes said. “We have our game in front of us, and it’s our game (Friday) to win.”


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