LOG MOUNTAIN — Midnight came a little early at Bell County High School Monday as the Bobcats celebrated their first day in pads with “Midnight Madness.”
There were inflatable rides for the younger kids, snow cones were on sale and the boosters club raised quite a bit of money with cake and pie auction. The highlight of the evening, of course, was getting to see this year’s Bobcats hit the field at full speed for the first time.
“This is what Bell County football is about — the community. Food, fellowship and fun is what I call it,” said Bell coach Wayne Mills. “It’s a good way to have that first night in pads and gets the boys ready. It’s a football frame of mind for our kids with the crowd here and that makes them go a little harder. It’s a plus for everybody.”
Bobcat senior end Jeffrey Saylor echoed the his coach’s sentiments from a player’s perspective and added that the his classmates want to see the team go as far as they can this fall.
“Football means a lot to this community and this is always a big event and gets everybody ready for the season,” he said. “This senior class, we just want to be good leaders. I think if we can just come out every week and play like we can we’re going to be alright.”
Bell senior Ryan Collett is another of several Bobcats that have been working hard since the end of last season.
“It’s our last one, we’re just going to go out and have fun and make what we can out of it,” he said. “We’re getting ready for the season and want to show everybody what we’ve got.”
Collett is making the switch from fullback, where he started much of last year, back to running back. He figures to share most of the Bell running load with fellow senior running back Jonathon Polly along with senior quarterback Corey Oslonian. Shane Lawson appears to have the early leg up on the starting fullback spot.
Collett ran for 316 yards and five touchdowns in ten games while Polly had 691 yards and seven scores. Their one-two punch should ease the loss of Cory Davenport, who finished his senior year with nearly 1800 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“The off season is real important and we’ve been coming up here on our own, running, doing sprints and working hard in the weight room,” Collett added. “That’s what makes Bell County — the weights.”
Senior receiver Tyler Green made the most of limited opportunities in 2011, leading the team with 20 receptions for 359 yards and seven TDs. He said that Bobcats may open the playbook a little more this season, but are still going to be primarily a running team.
“I think we might be a little more balanced after losing Cory. We may throw it a little more, but we’re not going away from the run,” he said.
Before joining his teammates for another round of full-contact drills, Green added that all the hard work in the heat is a price well worth paying.
“It means everything to be a Bobcat. The fans, the atmosphere on Friday nights, it’s worth all the hard work that we put into it.”
Bell County hosts an SEKC scrimmage on Aug. 10. Middlesboro goes against Pineville first followed by the Bobcats against Harlan. The regular season kicks on on Aug. 17 with the Bobcats paying a visit to Lexington Catholic.