Bearcats bring winning experience, attitude
     2012-08-23      By Terry Gaston   
That the Scottsbluff Bearcats football team is coming off two consecutive District B-6 championships with seven returning starters this season would be enough to excite Bearcat faithful on Scottsbluff’s prospects this fall.
Add to those already strong expectations the fact that several key team members were on the Bearcats’ Class B state championship teams in basketball and track last season, and the bar is raised even higher.
The Bearcats, who open the season Friday at home against Lexington, still have some holes to fill despite returning seven starters from last year’s 7-3 team that won districts but was edged 14-12 by Ralston in the first round of the playoffs.
“We need to develop some depth, but we expect to be pretty good by the end of the season,” Scottsbluff coach Joe Benson said. Some of the kids have been really confident and a lot of the kids were on the state basketball and track teams, so I think confidence is our biggest factor.”
Senior Eric Moreno (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) moves into the quarterback slot after playing receiver, and Benson likes what he sees in his new signal-caller, who is also the Bearcats’ returning punter.
“Eric throws the ball with a lot of velocity,” Benson said.
Returning senior running back Matt T. Klein (6 -1, 180 pounds) was the team’s leading rusher, with 1,159 yards and 18 touchdowns, and brings that winning attitude from both state championship teams. Klein also stepped into the signal-calling position in Scottsbluff’s Wildcat offensive attack last season.
Senior Luke Worden (5-9, 175 pounds) also returns after a solid junior season, with 585 rushing yards and 10 TDs, and also joined Klein on the state-winning 400-meter relay team.
“Obviously Matt and Luke are going to bring us some balance and will have a lot to say in how we run the ball,” Benson said.
The offensive line will be where depth is needed, Benson said. He has returning starters in seniors Jon Maag (6-5, 250 pounds) and Ty Dunkel (6-2, 245 pounds), both of whom were all-conference selections.
On defense, returning starters include Maag, Dunkel up front, Klein and Worden in the secondary and Beau Lofink (5-8, 195 pounds).
The Bearcats’ kicking game will be strong with Randy Wentz (5-11, 160 pounds) making 29 of his 31 extra-point attempts last season, while Moreno averaged 36 yards per punt. The anchor of the special teams will be returning long snapper Brett Magana (6-1, 165).
“The line is trying to build some depth,” Benson said. “We’re in the same situation that everybody else is.
Benson pointed to juniors Andrew Aratani (6-1, 280 pounds) as having stepped up his game, along with classmate Cody Rossman (5-10, 175) and seniors Magana, Lofink, Adam Harris (6-1, 185) Colton Flower (6-1, 185) and Matt D. Klein (6-3, 165) — another member of the state-winning 400 relay team.
“We have a lot of inexperience so we might take some lumps early on,” Benson said of his rebuilt defense. “We should be able to run our paths well.
The Bearcats open against a familiar foe in Lexington, after having opened the past two seasons against McCook, but the Minutemen are under new leadership so Benson said some surprises might be in store.
“It’s kind of nice playing a different opponent in the opener, although we have played Lexington to open the season before,” Benson said. “They will present a challenge with a new coach. We’re not sure what they will do on offense, so we know we have to be ready to go after them.”

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