Bears have something to prove in 2013

Jennifer Carter Johnson

Pierce County went 10-2 last season before falling victim to Class AAA-powerhouse Peach County 43-15 in the second round. The Bears’ posted a flawless 7-0 record in Region 1-AAA and beat each region foe by double digits with the exception of Appling County (36-34). Hitting their stride in the regular season, but not their potential in the playoffs is something that Bears’ head coach Sean Pender believes can change with more confidence this season.

“When we got matched up with Peach County last year I think our players saw their track record and No. 1 ranking for most of the season and thought that they were better than they were,” said Pender. “They [Peach County] are a great team, but we just left so many plays on the table. We were not confident enough.”

Confidence and having something to prove is the tune of this 2013 football team. At quarterback is Tyler Harris who could be the best college quarterback prospect in his class right now. While splitting time with Micah Lareson last season, Harris threw for over 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns. Harris has been considered as high as the top 10 recruit in the state this year, and his first offer came from the Alabama Crimson Tide. SMU, Mississippi State and South Florida are all trying to get a pledge from the 6-foot-3 pro-style quarterback, and Pender believes a college decision could come as soon as the end of June.

In order to make it over the playoff hump and escape the gauntlet of Class AAA powers, Pender knows that his players are going to have to become big-time playmakers this season. Junior running back Josh Henderson has proven to come up clutch in the big moments, and as a sophomore ignited the offense.

“Josh has such a great work ethic,” said Pender. “He is a tough kid and shows up for the big games.”

The Bears’ offense was balanced last season with Harris under center and Henderson at ball carrier, and they will house that same versatility this year. Sennua Lawson is a solid 204 pounds and can play tight end or the slot. Lawson is the primary target for Harris and his physicality and great hands gives Pender belief that he can make plays when they need them this year.

The stumble against Peach County in the playoffs tattooed what had been a great season. Pender believes that because of the loss, some of his players, Harris in particular, have not gotten the recognition they deserve. As a result, he believes they have something to prove this season.

“Tyler knows that if he won a state title last year, that he would be able to go to any school in the country,” said Pender. “I think he [Harris] is going to be the best college quarterback out of this class, and he [Harris] understands that winning a title makes all the difference. He wants to prove it to everyone.”

The Bears will be set offensively and have a very strong secondary leading the defense.

“The secondary and perimeter guys are as good as any team I have had,” said Pender. “The depth is not necessarily there however, so as long as we can stay healthy we will be fine.”

Pender hopes that his team will focus on improving game-to-game this season and “Learn how to win” as the season progresses so they can hit their stride when it counts.

The Bears open at home against Bacon County and will be at Appling County on Oct. 4.

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