First-year Beechcroft coach Ward has talent, experience at his disposal

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Columbus Beechcroft Cougars

Beechcroft made the playoffs last year
and lost on the road to Columbus Marion-Franklin in
the first round. This season, the Cougars have a first-year head coach in Bruce
Ward and he has a lot of talented, experienced players at his disposal.


Columbus Beechcroft (9-2)

* Players To Watch – SS Larez Harper (5-10, 200,
Sr.), RB/MLB Wallace Hale (5-11, 210, Sr.), TE/DE Rasean Moore (6-5, 215, Sr.),
RB/OLB B.J. Watkins (5-11, 200, Sr.), WR/DB/P Billy Croom (6-2, 185, Sr.)

Outlook – Beechcroft made the playoffs last year
(No. 5 seed in this region) and lost on the road to Columbus Marion-Franklin in
the first round. This season, the Cougars have a first-year head coach in Bruce
Ward and he has a lot of talented, experienced players at his disposal.

Harper was a second-team All-Ohio selection last season. He
has scholarship offers from Ohio U., Southern, Syracuse and Toledo.

“Larez is a leader on defense,” Ward said. “He’s an
explosive tackler. He has a tremendous work ethic and really gets the team
going.”

Hale piled up 1,530 rushing yards (7.3 yards per carry) and
26 touchdowns last year. He also led the team with 107 tackles.

“Wallace is being recruited by most of the MAC and a few
Big Ten schools,” Ward said. “Michigan State is looking at him and Eastern
Michigan really wants him. He’s working on the academic part of it.

“He’s a big, physical runner and he’s explosive in the open
field for a runner his size. He’s a punisher; he runs people over. He also has
deceptive speed and was timed last fall in the 40 at 4.51. He’s a great talent.”

Beechcroft utilizes a power running game and almost had two
runners reach 1,000 yards last year as Watkins had 930 rushing yards (8.3 yards
per carry) and 16 touchdowns. He also recorded 42 tackles on defense.

Moore is one of the top defensive ends in the Columbus City
League and he had 43 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks last year.

Croom is one of the best punters in central Ohio and had an
average of 41.9 yards last year.

“We have a great crop coming back,” Ward said. “And we have
a few guys like Wallace and B.J. that have started on the varsity since their
freshman year.

“We do not know who the starting quarterback is going to be
yet. Both of our quarterbacks from last year were seniors. We have no clue (who
the starter will be) as of yet.”

As for the team’s expectations, Ward says the goals are
pretty clear for the Cougars.

“We expect to compete for a league championship and there
are a lot of good teams like Brookhaven and Northland,” he said. “We expect a
lot out of ourselves and hopefully we can get back in the playoffs and see what
happens from there.”

Ward – who was previously Beechcroft’s defensive
coordinator – is taking over for long-time head coach Tom Dunlap who was hired
as a “program assistant” for Ohio State’s football team.

“Bruce has big shoes to fill,” athletic director Jerry Bell
said. “Tom is known as ‘Mr. Beechcroft’ around here. But we’re all confident
Bruce will do a very good job. We’ve only had two head football coaches in
school history; three now.”

Schedule

Aug. 28, Whitehall-Yearling, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4, at Upper Arlington, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 11, Columbus St. Charles, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18, at Columbus Whetstone, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 25, Columbus Linden McKinley, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2, at Columbus Mifflin, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 9, at Columbus East,, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 16, Columbus Brookhaven, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 23, Columbus Centennial, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 31, Columbus Northland, 7:30 p.m.

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