By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Looking back is a dangerous way to go forward. As Bedford North Lawrence embarks on the 2019 football campaign, coming off its best season since the 2011 sectional championship and the second-most wins in program history, the direction must sync with the gaze.
All eyes ahead. If distracted, the road could get bumpy as the Stars reload for Steve Weber’s seventh year at the helm.
Nothing crackles with energy like Opening Day, with 77 athletes hitting the practice field for Monday’s official debut once the cat-herding exercise of completed physicals and paperwork was finished. But when the excitement of the new season morphs into the workday sweat of preparation for the challenges ahead, BNL has questions that must be answered.
The Stars lost 18 seniors from last year’s thrilling 8-3 run, four of those are now playing college football, and they were the catalysts for a team that averaged 36.2 points per game. Somebody must fill huge voids, and those faces won’t have much varsity dirt streaked across the cheeks.
“Right now, for the first time in a long while, this is our most inexperienced team,” Weber said. “We have some guys coming back, but the guys that are filling in for what we lost last year, the playing experience is not there. Depth is a huge problem.
“If I put my starting 11 out there right now, we could run a play. The back-ups, not so much. That’s where we are, getting them to catch up. We’ve got a lot to step up on, and we have guys to do it.”
Catching up must be done at warp speed as the scrimmage with Mitchell (Aug, 16) and the season opener (at Martinsville on Aug. 23) approach rapidly. BNL did not answer all the questions during the important summer sessions: who’s going to direct the offense at quarterback? Will the new-look defense (31.8 points per game allowed, trending up each of the last three years) improve? Who emerges as the team leader?
“The biggest thing is we didn’t have a stellar off-season,” Weber said. “So we can’t take any practices off at all, we have to overcome a lot of things right now. If they can ignite themselves and make progress, that would go a long way to making it better.
“The biggest question mark is leadership. When you lose a class like that, and it was a great class, this bunch has never had to step up and do it. I’m waiting for that guy. Who wants to lead this team?”
BNL has building blocks, starting with three returning offensive linemen (including senior Cale Bunch, who is getting Division I offers) and workhorse running back Skyler Bates. The rest of the pieces will fall into place this week as the Stars spend the first six days implementing the option offense and the tinkered defensive schemes.
After that, after rehashing the lessons from the summer sessions, the objective is staying healthy, establishing depth (and that includes giving sophomores or even freshmen a long look), staying focused on the obstacles ahead.
“It’s always exciting to get out there and go,” Weber said. “If we didn’t enjoy this, if they weren’t excited, they wouldn’t be here.”
IHSAA rules mandated no-contact work for two days before the pads go on and the gloves come off on Wednesday.