CHRISTOPHER — With only two returning starters on offense and six seniors on the roster, the Christopher-Zeigler-Royalton Bearcats may be fighting an uphill battle in their quest to post a winning season this fall.
Returning are senior tight end/wide receiver turned quarterback, Cam Newton (no, not that guy on the Carolina Panthers), and senior running back Stephen Anderson. Both will play on defense, as well.
Also expected to start or push for playing time on both sides of the ball are senior running back Colton Phillips, senior tight end Derek Mueller, and senior offensive tackle Noah Huff.
A total of 14 seniors graduated from last year's 2-7 squad. Three additional projected starters have transferred to other schools this fall.
"It was definitely a downer to lose those three transfers, but we're going to do the best job that we can with what we have to work with," said sixth-year Bearcats head coach Josh McCurren. "We're a very young team and will have to play quite a few sophomores. The good news is that we have some talent in the lower ranks."
McCurren said C-Z-R just initiated a tackle program this year for kids in the fifth through eighth grades and as many as 80 signed up to compete.
"I'm hoping that we can build numbers and improve our competitiveness by starting to learn the fundamentals of the game in junior high rather than waiting til high school," McCurren said. "It's one step at a time for us right now."
Both of the Bearcats' wins last season came at the end of the schedule over Hamilton County and Vienna-Goreville.
Like his BDC coaching colleagues, McCurren believes Eldorado is the heavy favorite to win the league title this fall.
"They're loaded," he said. "They have some very good kids coming back. I also like Fairfield, Johnston City and Chester to contend. And I think Carmi and Sesser-Valier-Waltonville-Woodlawn will be improved. It should be a good race."