By CHRIS HOBBS
BUNKER HILL BEARS
Conference: Northwestern Foothills 2A.
Head coach: Patrick Clark (0-0 first year; 0-0 at Bunker Hill, first year).
Last season’s records: 1-10 overall; 1-5 Northwestern Foothills 2A, tied for fifth place.
Last season’s results: at Newton-Conover, L 0-51; St. Stephens, L 7-34; Maiden, L 15-41; at Bandys, L 7-33; at W. Wilkes, L 43-47; HIBRITEN, L 3-49; at FOARD, L 6-32; DRAUGHN, L 13-20; at E. BURKE, W 44-26; W. IREDELL, L 28-36; at PATTON, L 20-63.
SCHOOL FOOTBALL HISTORY
Last season in state playoffs: 2013, 2AA.
Last state playoff victory: 2013, d. Ashe County 20-17, first round.
All-time state playoff bids: 18.
Conference titles (or shares) since 1980, last: 1, 1980 Southern District 7 Athletic 2A (share).
BY THE NUMBERS
Returning starters: 8.
Returning lettermen: 8.
Returning starters: 3.
Leading returning rusher: Raheem Carson, 5-6, 155, Sr. (53-534, 7 TDs… does not include totals from two games).
Leading returning passer: Chance Carden, 5-9, 160, Jr. (3-6-2, 55, 1 TD… does not include totals from two games).
Leading returning receiver: Carson (3-71, 1 TD… does not include totals from two games).
Other key returnees: Carson Sigmon, 6-1, 195, OL, Jr.
Top newcomers: Hector Stamey, 5-6, 170, QB-DB, Jr.; Adrian Powell, 5-8, 175, RB-LB, Sr.; Parker Garrison, 5-10, 180, RB-LB, Jr.; Casey Bolick, 6-3, 240, OL, DL, Jr.
Returning starters: 5.
Players to watch: Raheem Carson, 5-6, 155, DB, Sr.; Chance Carden, 5-9, 160, DB, Jr.; Carson Sigmon, 6-1, 195, LB, Jr.; Carlos Fletcher, 6-5, 240, DL, Sr.; Aaron Bryant, 6-0, 190, DL, Jr.
After working as an assistant at Maiden, Patrick Clark comes to Bunker Hill intent on reshaping the Bears and helping them reach their potential.
They are 2-20 the past two seasons – back-to-back 1-10 years – and have not made the state playoffs since 2013.
For many, many years, the Bears have often had some of the best individual talent in the region … yet not enough of it numbers-wise to sustain long runs of success save a four-year record of 34-12 from 1987-90 (Did you know?: Bunker Hill produced Catawba County’s only N.C. Associated Press State Player of the Year, RB Alvin Baker, in the mid-1980s).
Often mentioned among area head coaches is Bunker Hill having to traditionally choose between putting its best athletes on offense or on defense, and the Bears have tried both through the years.
They’re a bit leaner in terms of proven offensive threats – Raheem Carson is the best among those – and they return only three offensive starters.
All that said, Clark can be reasonably expected to win more games than the Bears have in the past few years.
Bunker Hill’s schedule has four games right up front – Newton-Conover, St. Stephens, Maiden and Bandys – that could really set a tone… as in what do you think it would do for the Bears’ confidence if they were to go 3-1 or even 4-0 out of the gate?
The Bears have not beaten Newton-Conover since 2013 and only once twice in the last 18 battles. And they haven’t beaten Maiden since 1989 (current 28-game losing streak).
Think that through on the ‘what if’ meter. Watching the Bears face nearby rival Bandys with wins over Newton-Conover and Maiden already on their ledger?
Not saying the Bears are improved enough to beat the Red Devils or the Blue Devils, but wins like that could awaken them … and the next step is for Clark to get a ‘We-can-play-with-people’ back on the sidelines at The Hill.
Bunker Hill had a seven-win junior varsity team that should add some valuable pieces to the varsity roster.
Depth, though, and how the Bears use their personnel are keys… that and staying virtually injury-free at some key positions like any that Carson plays.