– Just four years ago, Paint Valley found themselves one win shy of the Division V final four. Since that time, the rebuilding has been a little slower than some expected for the Bearcats. Winners of only eight total games in the past three years, the 2007 version of the Bearcats are hungry and ready to prove that they are back as one of the elite teams in southern Ohio. What has been considered a talented, yet young, inexperienced team the past two seasons is now a junior/senior loaded bunch that is ready to turn the corner and make some noise in this year’s Scioto Valley Conference.
On the offensive side of the ball, junior quarterback Matt Workman leads an offense that showed great promise between the twenties a year ago, but red zone turnovers proved to be too much for the Bearcats to overcome. They lost six games by less than 10 points, four of which were less than a touchdown.
As a sophomore, Workman’s 1,237 yards was enough to put him amongst the conference leaders in the regular season; however, Paint Valley head coach Pete Hollon needs his signal-caller to improve on his touchdown to interception ratio in order for the Bearcats to earn their fourth playoff appearance in eight years.
One thing that should help Workman repeat the high yardage year, while being able to cut down on the mistakes is the supporting cast that returns around him. The Bearcats return eight starters on offense, including a solid nucleus up front – that although untested in some regards is a group with great size and potential – and several key skill guys such as junior running backs Colt Morris and Gage McFadden and senior wide receivers Ben McKell and Jake Holmes.
“We definitely have an experienced group on offense,” said Workman, who also handles the place-kicking duties. “We have a lot of weapons that allow us to use different formations to attack a defense. I feel we can be as successful as we allow ourselves to be. Last year we were in every game but made some mistakes that cost us. I need to make better decisions – cut down on my interceptions – and try and give our skill guys a chance to make plays.”
Chris Medved returns as defensive coordinator and he too is excited about the growth he sees on the defensive side of the ball. In 2006, Medved’s defense kept Paint Valley in just about every game, but like the offense, he would like to see his group make more big plays.
“The biggest thing is our experience and the expectations that come with having an older group,” said Medved who coached the Bearcat defense to six straight shutouts in 2003. “These kids have taken their lumps through their freshmen and sophomore seasons, and now they are juniors and seniors and ready to prove themselves. They have had a great attitude and work ethic in the weight room all summer, and I think their expecting big things as a team.”
Paint Valley opens its 2007 campaign on the road with brutal back-to-back trips starting at Columbus West and then traveling to Newark Catholic. The Bearcats then open their home season when the Tigers of Greenfield McClain travel to Bainbridge in Week 3. Once SVC play gets underway in Week 4, things do not get any easier for Paint Valley as it hosts the conference’s defending champion in Westfall.
“We have always had the attitude here at Paint Valley that we want to pride ourselves on not backing down from any challenges,” Hollon said when asked about the extremely difficult front half of this year’s schedule. “We know it won’t be easy, but I really think it is what our kids need to face. They have taken their lumps over the past two years, and it is time for them to step up and find away to compete with and beat the top teams.”
In all likelihood, most fans – and even most coaches for that matter – around the SVC will pick Paint Valley in the middle of the pack, but the eyes in Bainbridge are on a bigger and better outcome.
“I definitely see a change in the expectations for this year’s team,” Hollon said. “The kids have put a lot of time and effort into football, and we are definitely going to be a bigger, stronger, and more experienced team than what people have seen in the past two years.”