It’s full-steam ahead for football at Bassett High School this spring, and the Bengals may be young but they’re excited to finally get back on the field.
Bassett head coach Brandon Johnson said he feels like he says this every year, but his team is pretty young. However, they come into 2021 with a lot of experience.
“I’m super excited we’re getting to play football, but a lot of that excitement comes from I know what I have and we’re excited about this group of kids.”
Here’s what Johnson had to say about his squad this season:
Offense“We’ve got a sophomore quarterback, we’ve got a junior running back. Ja’Ricous (Hairston) is a sophomore. He started for us (at QB) as a freshman last year. Elijah Stokes is back, he’s a sophomore. Simeon Walker-Muse will carry a lot of the load in the backfield alongside Ardonit Mehmeti or Tyheim Cline.
“Then our receiving core overall, top to bottom, looks very good right now. Keshaun Valentine, he’s back for his senior year. He’s a leader of that group. And then we’ve got a junior, Jamari Johnson, who is going to be very good for us. And then a lot of young guys again, like always.
“Our offensive line, we’ve got three seniors who are going to be playing their fourth year together starting on the O-line for us. That’s pretty big for us. We’re very excited about that group and we’re excited about this year.”
Defense“Defensively, we graduated our defensive backs last year. We graduated Austin McDaniel, graduated Kevon Smith, guys like that, Dylan Hairfield. We lost a lot of leadership, but I had a lot of guys in waiting who now they feel like it’s their turn and they’re going to turn heads for us.
“Dylan Hairfield’s little brother, Colby Hairfield, is going to be very good for us on the D-line alongside Ricky Penn, Will Belongia, and Nate Hankins.
“I’ve got Keshuan Valentine playing defense this year with Sterling Jamison. It’s going to be his third year starting varsity as a junior.
“We’ve got some guys that are going to have to go both ways due to numbers, but they’re up to the challenge and they’ve been working their tails off and I’m excited about this group”
“We’ve got our kicker, Freddi Lopez, coming back. This will be his third year for us. He’s going to be a weapon this year. I’ve seen him hit a field goal from 50 yards. I’ve seen him put the ball in the endzone on kickoffs. When you’ve got a guy like that, he’s a weapon.
“Then you talk about our return game, we’ve got Elijah Stokes who’s dynamic with the football. Simeon Walker-Muse, Keshaun Valentine, Jaylen Lide, who is going to see some time for us this year on the varsity level. We’ve got some guys who can make things happen when the ball is in their hands.”
FINAL WEEK PREP
Bassett will open the season on Saturday at home against Carroll County. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
What are the Bengals doing for final preparations before the opener?
“Just the basics. Work on us and really solidify our identity as a football team, offensively and defensively and on special teams,” Johnson said. “In years past, you’re watching film on the other team and worrying about what they’re doing and trying to plan accordingly. This year we don’t really have film on guys going into Week 1 because there were no scrimmages, so we’re just focusing on us and we’ll make the adjustments necessary in-game.
“Right now we’re just trying to focus on our fundamentals and us being able to do what we do at the highest level we can possibly do it, so that’s been our main focus is getting our guys ready to play a football game. They’ve had 15 months off from actual football so getting them prepared mentally and physically has been our No. 1 thing right now.”
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at email@example.com