Gallatin’s new-look football squad isn’t a total rebuilding effort, but returning starters are far outnumbered by newcomers on both sides of the ball, leaving the Bulldogs very thin on experience and depth.
Gallatin graduated 11 from last season’s 7-4 team. That makes this year’s squad both smaller and younger. Last season’s junior varsity went undefeated. If those athletes play up to their potential, the Bulldogs could be looking at another winning campaign, but on the down side, Gallatin returns fewer starters than any team in the Grand River Conference.
With smaller numbers and fewer game-tested players to fill holes, staying away from injuries is crucial to any Bulldog success on the field.
“We aren’t very deep, so we need to stay healthy,” says new head coach Kevin Gundy. “We have to adjust how we do some things at practice so we don’t get players hurt,” he added. “We should get better as the year progresses, but staying healthy is crucial.”
With only one senior on the roster, look for the balance of leadership to come from the junior class, which includes Jacob Boyd, Trystan Sunby, Logan Jeffers, Brandon Bradley, Colten Beck, Michael Stanley, Aaron McNickle, Dane Brammer and Jesse Bundy.
“Jacob Boyd saw limited action as QB last year and is going to be a captain, and Michael Stanley has played varsity football for his first two seasons and is a captain who leads by example,” Coach Gundy commented.
“Jesse Bundy started on defense and is an extremely hard worker and leads us as one of our hardest working players,” Gundy continued. “A lot of our leadership is coming from our core group of returning players, but everyone has been having a positive attitude towards the team,” he added.
Boyd is an experienced quarterback who, at times last season, filled in for an injured Zack Lollar. A mobile quarterback with a good arm, Boyd will guide the jet offense that the Bulldogs have become familiar with over the last two seasons.
Jeffers is the only returning running back with varsity experience. Sunby will line up at wide receiver, along with sophomore Bradley Rhoades. Brandon Bradley will play receiver and halfback. Beck is a tight end. The remaining juniors will return to the trenches.
The offensive line will be led by Stanley, an all-conference returnee, and Bundy, both guards; Brammer and senior Devlin Smith at tackle, and sophomore center Harris Cameron. Sophomore Chase Morrison will also play tackle.
Defensively, the Bulldogs lined up at Friday’s jamboree with Bundy, Jeffers, Brammer and Cameron on the line, Beck, Stanley and Morrison at linebacker, and Sunby, Boyd, Bradley and Rhoades in the defensive backfield.
Jeffers will also handle punting and kickoff duties. Sunby will attempt extra points.
Last week’s jamboree was important in many respects, Gundy said.
“It gave us a chance to see other teams and have our first-teamers go against other team’s first-teamers, as well,” he said. “It showed us the places where we still need improvement.”
Gallatin opens the 2013 season at home on Friday against the North Platte Panthers. The Bulldogs are looking for a repeat of last season’s 27-20 victory. North Platte returns six starters on both offense and defense, but will miss last season’s quarterback Levi Hill, who combined for nearly 1,800 rushing and passing yards.