Bearden’s strong run game has helped already them in key wins this year, and the Bulldogs will look to continue this trend Friday when they go on the road in league play for the first time this season.
Perhaps the main reason for this success is junior running back DJ Cox.
Through the first four games, Cox has 230 rushing yards, 95 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. Bearden hopes he continues to grow as the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 Region 1-6A) travel to Science Hill (3-1, 1-0) on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
In the Bulldogs’ last game against South Doyle, Cox had a season high 117 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“He is talented,” offensive coordinator Coach Paul Shelton said. “He would tell you this: the offensive line played extremely well on Thursday night.
“The offensive line moved guys, and South Doyle gave us opportunities to take advantage offensively.”
Not only does Cox have an impact on the field, but he also brings energy to the team in practice.
“DJ is a very happy person so he brings a lot of laughter to the team,” junior tight end Addison Ironside said. “He’s fun to play with and brings a lot of energy.”
Coach Shelton stresses how important it is to convert on third downs, and he thinks Bearden’s run game has improved on this since last year.
“One of the things we couldn’t do last year was run the football and the ability to convert in the redzone, the ability to get third and ones,” Coach Shelton said. “The biggest gains aren’t the ones that he’s breaking 30 yards on – that’s a huge deal – but the biggest thing is having the ability to hand the ball to DJ and being able to convert on third downs and continually move the sticks.”
Although Cox runs with top speed, he credits his success to relying on the offensive line to make blocks.
“I always trust my line, but just executing,” Cox said. “The defense doesn’t know where we’re going but the offense does.”
The last matchup between the Bulldogs and the Hilltoppers resulted in a 34-20 loss for Bearden, but a road win Friday would put Bearden in a great position in the region.
“We have to win up front and dominate the interior,” Cox said.