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2018 Gridiron: Bowling Green Bobcats

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Colors: Black and Red

Total Returning Lettermen: 19

2017 Overall Record: 3-7

Head Coach: Kevin Krietemeyer

Years at School: 2

Record at School: 3-7

Overall Record: 25-25

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GOOD BONES: BOBCATS RAMP UP AMBITIOUS REBUILD, EXPECTATIONS IN YEAR TWO OF THE KRIETEMEYER ERA

A FRIEND IN “KNEE” IS A COACH INDEED: Kevin Krietemeyer is no stranger to successful football reclamations projects and the unavoidable growing pains that always accompany “culture change” in Year One. As has been well documented, Coach K is also famously “impassioned” in his quest to coax greatness out of his kids. So much so that he, in essence traded torn knee ligaments for a two win improvement in his squad last Fall. True story. Krietemeyer torn his ACL during the season in trying to chest bump one of his players in celebration of a great play. He spent much of the rest of the season having to coach from the Press Box, which served not only as a stern test of the man’s tenuous sanity, but as well as FCC restrictions on Radio Stations live broadcasting Bobcat games in earshot of Krietemeyer. See also his now legendary meltdown against Mark Twain, which saw him call a Time Out from the Jacque Stewart Press Box, hobble his way down to the field on crutches, and spit some holy fire. And sure enough, the ploy worked, as the Bobcats extended a lackluster 7-6 early lead in that contest into a 38-6 drubbing of the Tigers; the high water mark of a three win season and a tease at the simmering potential bubbling just below the surface here headed into 2018. Put simply, there was measurable progress made in restoring the foundation of the once powerhouse Bowling Green Program. Heaven knows what bodily injury it may cost Krietemeyer next, but his fire has engendered traction and positive vibes. Krietemeyer now likens this group in mindset to his Unity/Payson squad, right as it was turning the corner and figuring out how to win games. And judging by the spike in participation and surge in off-season workout programs, the “get-it” factor in Bobcat circles has risen considerably.

THE X’S AND O’SAND THE JIMMYS AND KALEOS: Familiarity breeds success in High School Football. Bowling Green may have got an immersive crash course in Krietemeyerology 101 last season but the payoff moving forward is being able to build forward with fifteen returning starters, including eight returnees charged with reversing the slow erosion over the years of the BG Defense. Moreover, Bowling Green doesn’t just have pieces in place. They’ve got quality bone structure in place in critical positions like Quarterback and Linebacker to frame this thing around. I would also point out that the BG Roster tree features 15 Underclassmen in the two-deep right now, which certainly portends a strengthened base to build from into the future.

A LITTLE CHINN MUSIC: It sounds a bit daunting to say this out loud but Bowling Green surrendered 39 points and 335 yards of total offense per game last Falland still might have been the most radically improved Defense in Northeast Missouri. Defensive Guru Joe Chinn has been fighting an uphill battle here for a couple of years now. From this point forward, however, he finally gets to fight it with “his guys” and that sorting out process could really swing the pendulum back in a positive direction this Fall. The new Bowling Green Defense profiles right for the first time in a long time. BG has a proven Rainmaker at Linebacker in Kaleo Dade, who posted 114 tackles, 4 stops for loss and 4 quarterback sacks in his Junior Year; the third straight year he has topped the Century Mark in season stops. Kaleo is a feisty, energetic dynamo at 6’1” and 215 pounds who has had to do too much of the heavy lifting on his own. He stands to be better protected by an imposing Defensive Line and better supported across the board in 2018, which should afford him more freedom to fly to the football and pop opponents enthusiastically to the turf; a volume hitter who does it as emphatically as anyone in our area. He is expected to be flanked here by Andrew Biggs (27 tackles in 2017) and Phillip Bran (15 tackles as a Sophomore) don’t be surprised if Deonta Fleming, Tristan Charlton, and Jackson Gregory force their way into reps as well.

Up front, Senior Mavryk Conley (6’4” 265lbs) and Junior Hayden Finley form an impressive set of Bookends to the Line. Conley has proven ability to harass a backfield (4 sacks in 2017) and posted 24 tackles a season ago. Finley notched 25 stops as well. Their imposing presence should help funnel action back into the heart of the Bobcat Defense where Senior Dillion Burbridge (6’4” 325lbs) and Sophomore Jacob Bowen lurk at Defensive Tackle. Bowen showed enormous promise fighting his way to 27 tackles up front as a Ninth Grader and his continued progress up front as a stronger, savvier weapon in year two should help to cure some of the porousness of past BG Defenses. Braden Perez (6’2” 240lbs) could be a significant source of help here as well. The Bobcats will certainly look the part up front.

Bowling Green graduates one of the best Defensive Backs in the region in Noah Pafford but the returns of Hunter Smith and Austin Callahan alone should make Secondary Play a primary strength. Callahan is an ideal Centerfielder at 6’3” and 195lbs who picked off three passes and forced 5 fumbles a year ago. He also bagged nearly 50 total tackles. And while that suggests that BG opponents did get to the third level far too easily on the Bobcats last season, don’t let it also diminish that Austin is a very capable run stopper with outstanding range. Smith picked off six passes as a Sophomore, establishing himself as the latest in a long line of great ballhawks to “take the Black” for BG. He’s undersized but highly instinctive and aggressive winning 50/50 balls. And is a willing tackler too. Sophomores Michael Starks and Nick Breakfield as well as Senior Kyle Horner will get long looks in polishing out this grouping.

THE QUARTERBACK WHISPERER: Austin Callahan’s move to quarterback was not without its growing pains (15 interceptions) but on balance there was ample evidence here to suggest that he is the man for the future and that said future could be pretty right. People tend to forget that Brody Dunker didn’t arrive for Kevin Krietemeyer fully formed at Unity/Payson; that there was a process of maturation that carried him to eventual KHQA Player of the Year status. Callahan is similarly positioned and a willing learner. Remember, this is a kid who did throw for 1465 yards and 14 touchdowns (on 50% accuracy) last Fall while trying to figure things out on the fly. He should benefit as well from enhanced chemistry with his receivers, with both Matt Key (11 catches, 277 yards, 2 TD) and Lane Parker (22 catches, 199 yards) now known commodities in their Quarterback’s mind. Austin Orf looms as a potential big target entering the equation. And Nick Breakfield and Michael Starks profile as possession weapons in the slot. Bottom line, if Callahan maximizes his physical gifts and the weapons he’s been afforded, the whole shebang here starts looking really fun on Offense in a hurry.

THIS MAVRYK MOMENT: The nature of Kevin Krietemeyer’s Offense is such that it tends to be a star maker for Quarterbacks. Counterintuitively, however, I would posit that Bowling Green’s larger improvement in 2018 might well hinge on the growth of the ground game. BG managed only 114 rushing yards per game in 2017. This can only improve with four starters returning on the offensive line and with the two-depp backfield returning intact. On paper, the Bobcats are down only a Right Tackle from last season but don’t be surprised here if the returning pieces (Ethan Everhardt, Mavryk Conley, Hayden Finley, Jacob Bowen, Andrew Biggs) don’t get shuffled around to maximum effect in better matching blocker to responsibility. It won’t be a gigantic line by any means, but the Bobcats should be mobile and switchable up front. Kaleo Dade is the top holdover ground weapon, having rushed for 524 yards and 6 touchdowns on 130 totes last season. He’s a low profile, physical runner who can certainly slug away at a defense. Look for the Bobcats to potentially infuse some pop into the equation with Dylan Huber getting more reps. There’s also talk that exceptional Pole Vaulter Kyle Horner might be willing to play football and that would certainly broaden the canvas and stretch the field on Offense.

THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: The resolve of a revamped Bowling Green Defense will be tested right from the jump as the Bobcats travel to see Brock Wood and South Shelby in the opener, then double back for a showdown with Jarom Alexander and Palmyra in Week Two. There’s no wiggle room there. You either radically improves as a defense or open the year 0-2. So we should have a pretty fast gauge on just how well the Bobcats have attended their Achilles Heel before September even arrives. If Bowling Green comes out of that stretch 1-1, the Cats really have a chance to roar into EMO play and ride that momentum well. Squint real hard and you can see a scenario where BG wins seven regular season games if all goes according to plan. That’s the caveat though. Things have to fall into place right and we have to see tangibly that these guys have in fact learned how to close and how to win. As improved as the overall scenario appears, this is still a group that can look back over their shoulders and see futility in the not-too-distant past. So this is really moment of truth time. Again, Kevin Krietemeyer’s breakout group at Unity/Payson got a little lucky early against Pleasant Hill in their opener and used that forward momentum as a confidence crutch back to respectability. In that sense I think it’s vitally important BG shows up and shows out in Shelbina Week One; just to exorcise all those past demons instantly. To kill any lingering doubt in anyone’s mind. Im going to conservatively set the over/under here on five wins; which would still be a leap forward from the last two years. Any evolution beyond that is entirely on the Bobcats shoulders as football fortune reversers. But clearly there is a brighter future already in play here; from approach to atmosphere to enthusiasm. It’s not a question of “if” they maximize all this on the field, but when. And if that process occurs in 2018 rather than 2019, there’s some real Coach of the Year reprise arguments to be made for the man in charge and his staff. Let’s put that power of belief to the test, kids. Can’t wait to see how it shakes out.

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