BALLINGER — After a successful run under former Chuck Lipsey that saw Ballinger qualify for the playoffs in five straight seasons, the Bearcats may have to take a step back and rebuild in 2022.
Graduation hit Ballinger hard during the spring, leaving first-year coach Ty Lang with only nine returning lettermen and 11 of 22 starting positions with a vacancy.
So not only will the Bearcats be learning a new system this season, but they’ll be playing with less Friday night experience than most of the teams on their schedule.
Lang, however, a graduate of Graham High School, is happy to return home to the Big Country to accept the challenge.
“My hat’s off to last year’s seniors who played under coach Lipsey,” said Lang, who served as the interim head coach at Class 4A DI Decatur last season. “They were a great group of leaders who could play ball and they played hard.
“I’m dependent on them to have passed that down and I’ve already seen it through the time I’ve been here since late in the spring and through the summer. I couldn’t be more excited and proud about how our kids have attacked the transition so far.”
One of the first orders of business for Lang will be to settle on a new quarterback. Two candidates have surfaced at this point — junior Martin Quiroga, a receiver-linebacker last year and sophomore Zach Canada, who saw time at running back and linebacker.
Much of Ballinger’s overall talent resides in its junior and sophomore classes, including junior running back-linebacker Nathan McDuffee, junior receiver-defensive back Luke Rollwitz and junior offensive-defensive linemen Monte McKinnon (6-2, 200) and Robert Roman (6-0, 220).
Lang’s new playbook and new terminology will see the Bearcats spreading the field to run the ball offensively. They will base out of a 3-3 stack defensively, but will show some even fronts as well.
“We’re always going to set the bar at an outright district title and going 5-0 in district,” Lang said. “What we’ve got with a good non-district schedule is that we’ll be battle-tested early. Everybody on our schedule can play ball, so no matter what happens, we’ve got to continue to get better every week and put ourselves into a good position.
“Then at the end of the year, we’ll assess where we’re at and hopefully, we’ll have landed one of those top four spots. Hopefully, it will the top spot and then we’ll get ready for a playoff run.”
OUTLOOK: Fair. The Bearcats are in the difficult position of rebuilding with several juniors and sophomores, while learning a new playbook from a new staff. However, there is some young talent available and if Ballinger can settle on a quarterback, the possibility of landing a low playoff seed might be there. Lang’s program, it should be remembered, is quite young in a season of transition and likely a year away from making a real splash.
GAME OF THE YEAR: With Wall, Early and Brady generally regarded as the district favorites, a season finale against Grape Creek at home could very well decide if the Bearcats are to land their sixth straight playoff berth.
ballinger QUICK FACTS
- Head Coach: Ty Lang (4-7 overall, 0-0 at Ballinger)
- Last Season’s Record: 7-5 overall, 2-3 district
- Lettermen Returning/Lost: 9/13
- Offensive Starters Returning: 6
- Defensive Starters Returning: 5
- Base Offense: Spread
- Base Defense: Multiple