Every year, there is one game in particular that the Bearden football team circles on the schedule.
After two long seasons, that game will finally return to Bearden’s field for a fall break matchup between the two teams. The Bulldogs (6-1, 2-1 Region 1-6A) host Farragut (7-0, 3-0) on Thursday night at 7 in a Rivalry Thursday game that will be televised by MyVLT.
Not only is the field different this season, but the stakes are higher. A win for the Bulldogs would mean they control their own destiny to win the region for the first time in 11 years.
“In the past whenever we’ve played Farragut, they’ve been way better than us, and we shouldn’t have won,” senior tight end Addison Ironside said. “They’ve always had the better record.”
Bearden has not beaten Farragut since Nicky Frizen led a second half comeback in a 48-45 triple-overtime thriller at Farragut on Oct. 6, 2012.
Bearden will play this game with an almost entirely different group of receivers from the group that traveled to Farragut a year ago. The Bulldogs this season had to account for the loss of five receivers last year and the loss of leading receiver Hayden Candela early in the season due to injury.
“Losing Hayden was kind of a shock because he was our leading receiver at the time, but we just shifted Matt [Carr] down, had the next guy up,” Ironside said. “It’s what you have to do in 6A football.”
The Bulldogs’ passing game hasn’t lost its step either, averaging 175 passing yards per game through seven games. Ironside has been a big part of that, surpassing Candela as Bearden’s leading receiver with 32 catches for 301 yards and two scores.
His brother, junior quarterback Collin Ironside, also gives credit to inexperienced receivers for stepping into new roles.
“We’ve had a lot of guys who aren’t very experienced step up, and they’ve done a really good job of that,” he said.
Coach Morgan Shinlever will coach in his third Farragut game as the head coach, and he believes the game comes down to more than just talent.
“Our team is as tough as it comes for a high school football team,” Coach Shinlever said. “When you’ve got a team like that and you go into a rivalry game, it doesn’t really come down to the physical attributes as much as it does the mental preparation and being disciplined throughout the game.”
Bearden’s seniors hope that home field advantage will be the key to getting their first win over Farragut in their high school careers.
“Finally, we get to play here; it seems like it’s been forever,” Carr said. “Freshman year, we got destroyed here in the rain; that was miserable.
“It’s a good homecoming. I feel like it’s about time to get a win.”