The Lovell Bulldogs were pretty good in 2010, darn good, going 8-2 and winning a first-round playoff game. And after losing only six seniors to graduation and boasting a senior class of 14 and a junior class of 10, the Bulldogs hope to take another big step in coach Doug Hazen’s third year at the helm in 2011.
The Bulldogs certainly lost some key players to graduation – Darren Ballard, Joey Croft, Billy Davila, Tyrel Harrison, Koty Johnson and Kaleb Leithead – but they have talent and lots of depth returning.
Lovell played a “Week Zero” game at Douglas Saturday and fell to the 3A powerhouse Bearcats 37-22.
“We have a lot of work to do this week to get some issues fixed from that game,” Hazen said as he turned his attention to this week’s home and season-opener. The Bulldogs will host 2A East foe Wright Friday at 7 p.m. at Robertson Stadium.
With Johnson graduating, the Bulldogs will turn the reins of the offense to junior Dylan Hultgren. After two years running the junior varsity offense, Hultgren is ready, Hazen said.
“Dylan is one of those kids who is great for a coach,” he said. “He is very coachable and he wants to do well. He’s always looking to get better. He will be a good leader. The kids will rally around him.”
The offense won’t change with Hultgren at the helm as the Bulldogs will run their traditional pro-set, I formation offense.
“We threw a lot in our scrimmage (on Aug. 20) because we wanted to see what we had,” Hazen said. “I expect to run the ball more than we throw the ball. Dylan has had two years to get ready at the JV level. Now he’s excited to be under center for us.”
JV quarterbacks will be freshmen Seth Kite and Michael Brightly, and sophomores Brandon Dickson and Chase Rasmussen.
Lovell’s backfield returns in senior fullback Steven Pickett and junior halfback Dino Collins. Collins was an all-conference selection a year ago, Pickett honorable mention. Both are rugged, hard-running backs. Collins rushed for 1,098 yards and 11 touchdowns last season on 241 carries, a 4.6 average.
Backing up the returning starters are senior Dimas Patina, junior Ryan Clark and sophomore Calin McArthur.
The Bulldogs are deep at wide receiver, Hazen said, noting, “We have a lot of receivers we will rotate in.”
Making up the “core group,” he said, are junior Cody Savage (all-conference) and seniors McKayan May, Hunter Hinckley (HM) and Collin McArthur. Savage caught 20 passes for 320 yards last season – 16 yards per catch – with three touchdowns.
Backing up the core four will be seniors PJ Blankenship, Adam Beck and Ritch McCollam and junior Nathan Grant.
Returning all-state selection senior Mark Grant will start at tight end, backed by senior Brigham Hopkin and McCollam.
“We have the talent to run the ball, but we also have the talent to throw the ball,” Hazen said. “We’ll see what our identity is as we get going.”
In Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Hultgren, a two-yard run by Patina, a 15-yard pass from Hultgren to Collin McArthur and a 20-yard field goal by Savage.
Experience returns on the line in the form of senior all-state right guard AJ Montanez (6-0, 260) and senior left tackle Eli Moody (6-3, 210). Junior Nathan Ballard will start at right tackler, junior Tanner Rohrer (6-0, 235) at center and junior Jacob Beck at left guard. Backing up will be seniors Garrett Angell and Cody Clark and junior Jacob Asay.
New coach Bob Weber will call the offense.
Four veterans will anchor the defensive line in right end Savage, right tackle Angell (6-6, 330), left tackle Montanez and left end Moody. Asay, Ballard and Cody Clark will rotate in.
Collins and Hopkin will man the outside linebacker positions, backed by Patina and junior Austin Ellis. Pickett and Mark Grant return at the middle linebacker spots, backed by junior Ryan Clark and sophomores Dillon Pickett and Calin McArthur.
Cornerbacks will be Hinckley and May, backed by Nathan Grant and Adam Beck, and McArthur returns at safety, backed by Blankenship.
“We’re an attacking defense,” said Hazen, who calls the sets and plays for the 4-4 defense. “We’ll confuse them up front and play sound in the secondary.”
Also coaching are returning assistant Craig Winterholler, who will run the junior varsity defense, and new coach Daniel Robertson, who will coordinate the JV offense.
Lovell defeated Wright on the road in last year’s season-opener in a 21-20 nail-biter.
Scheduled JV games for Sept. 3 and 17 have been switched, Athletic Director Joe Koritnik reported. The Bulldogs are now scheduled to travel to Cody Saturday for a 10 a.m. kickoff, and they will host Thermopolis Sept. 17 at 1 p.m.
By David Peck