LOG MOUNTAIN — The Bell County Bobcats have been hard at work over the past two weeks getting ready for the 2012 football season.
Wayne Mills is in his second season as the Bobcat football coach after guiding the team to a 11-2 record and the state quarterfinals last year.
“We’ve had a good off-season, the kids really worked hard in the weight room. With not having to miss any school over the winter I felt like that gave us a lot of consistency in the weight room,” Mills said. “The kids came in through the summer a couple of days a week and continued to work on their conditioning and we did some fundamental things. Now we’re in our second week of practice getting ready for the fall.”
Thursday there was a big turnout as Bell County boosters held a “Meet the Bobcats” spaghetti dinner at the high school to raise money and to give supporters a chance to mingle with this year’s team.
Mills has high hopes for his Bobcats in 2012.
“We’ve got great senior leadership — I think that makes a difference — and we’re just excited. The kids always come ready to work. It’s a tradition, man, and it’s fun to coach,” he said. “This senior group has stayed together for four years after being a great middle school team. They’ve got a lot of friendship amongst them and I think that makes a difference when we play because football is such a team sport.
While Bell will have a tough time replacing stand-out running back Cory Davenport and a few good linemen, they lost just seven seniors from last year. Backfield starters Jonathan Polly and Ryan Collett return as seniors and some younger players are ready to step into the spotlight.
“We’ve had a couple of young kids that we thought would have the opportunity to come on and they have. Those kids will be juniors this year — Ben Collett and Justin Warwick have had a great off season and I think they’ll be great additions to the defensive side of the ball.”
Bell’s season ended in the quarterfinals with a 26-0 loss to Louisville Central. Mills says that last game has been a motivator for the players this off season.
“One think I’ll say about last year’s game at Louisville Central is that if things go right early for us, we’re in that ball game. They capitalized on some turnovers that we gave them and went on to win,” he said. “You can tell our kids are motivated by that game, they talk about it all the time. But we’ve got a tough district, we know Wayne County and Corbin are going to be good.
“The big thing is the winner of our district gets to play at home all they way through until the state championship game. That’s an opportunity in itself, and that’s what we’re focused on because those are the teams standing in the way of our goal at the end of the season.”
Bell County opens up at Lexington Catholic on Aug. 17. Lex-Cath quarterback Kyle Bowlin has committed to the University of Louisville and the team will be featured on an ESPNU game the following week.
“That just tells you how big their program is, they’ll be playing on national TV,” Mills added. “We’ll know quick how good we are after playing Lexington Catholic and Bryan Station the first two weeks.”
The Bobcats will be having a “Midnight Madness” practice on July 30, their first day in pads with lots of other activities planned. Bell will also be hosting an SEKC Grid-O-Rama on Aug. 10 with the Bobcats scrimmaging Harlan and Middlesboro scrimmaging against Pineville.