Freshmen, McCarty help Cheylin pull away
NATOMA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Bird City-Cheylin graduated just one player off last year’s 9-1 team that finished as six-man state runner-up. The Cougars returned quarterback Colton McCarty, the classification’s offensive player of the year, along with all its rushing yards and 94 percent of its tackles.
Coach Chris Walden knew incoming freshmen Logan McCarty and Pablo Bermudez had played plenty of high-level football, basketball and baseball games in the younger ranks. At first, Walden was “really hesitant” to use the duo in key roles.
After the season opener, Walden realized the freshmen needed to see frequent time. On Friday, they again delivered in a 52-12 road win at Natoma in a key six-man matchup.
“They are out there (Week 1) flying around making plays, hitting, getting interceptions, scoring touchdowns,” Walden said. “It was kind of the point where we are looking to give our kids the best chance to win, and right now, it’s with those two on the field. They have kind of had to grow up in a hurry.”
Top-ranked Cheylin improved to 5-0, 4-0 in North Division, and Natoma dropped to 3-1, 3-1 in the North. Cunningham and Ashland are undefeated in the South. Cheylin and Natoma could match up again in the playoffs.
“It was really fun, energetic,” Bermudez said. “Really just good game overall for our whole team, and especially for our coaches, making us work as hard as we can every single play.”
The Tigers had not permitted a point in its victories. Natoma hadn’t had its entire team at practice in two weeks and missed a starter Friday. The Tigers didn’t play last week and had its season opener cancelled.
“You’ve got to be at 100 percent and ready for guys like them,” Natoma first-year coach Brian Patterson said. “And bottom line, they were better than we were tonight. … To beat a good team, everybody has got to play well, and everybody has got to play well on every single play, and we just didn’t execute that tonight.”
Natoma, known for their physicality with 220-pound junior fullback Kayden Martinez, closed to 20-12 late in the first half after he rushed for a 54-yard touchdown. Martinez recorded 25 carries for 160 yards and two scores.
“We knew they were big, physical, they were going to come get you, and we needed that,” Walden said. “We needed to face some adversity. We needed to face some bigger kids and see some size. I know we will down the road, so that was something we really enjoyed.”
After Martinez’s score, Cheylin faced second-and-8 at the Natoma 28-yard line. Colton was just 2 of 7 for 35 yards, and standout senior Andrew Schields had zero second-quarter touches. Cheylin elected to use Logan at quarterback.
He found Bermudez down the left sideline, who made a nice juke move and was down at the two-yard line. Bermudez’s shiftiness, displayed several times, has come from summer workouts and daily ladder drills to improve his hips.
“I saw the safety cheating up, and the guy that was guarding me five to six yards off me, so I cut to the inside and I saw that area was wide open,” Bermudez said. “So I went there.”
On the next play, Colton scored on a two-yard run with 1 minute, 2 seconds left in the second quarter for a 27-12 halftime lead. It marked his third rushing touchdown in the first half.
“We were struggling getting anything going,” Walden said. “Colton is kind of having a bad day throwing, so we put his younger brother in to throw. Logan kind of buys some time scrambling, and then Pablo loses his defender for half a second, and Logan makes a great throw. Hits him, turns, makes a guy miss, gets out of bounds.”
In the second half, Colton tallied TDs of 54, 27 and 32 yards for another big game. He delivered 25 carries for 298 yards and six touchdowns, along with a 29-yard punt return.
“We just needed a play,” Walden said. “We needed someone other than Colton and Andrew to make a play and step up, and it’s good to have some of those younger guys able to step up and make plays when we need it in a situation like that.”
Bermudez had the 26-yard reception, three passes defended, along with a tackle for loss. He helped hold Natoma to 3 of 13 passing for 20 yards.
“I told my coaches at halftime, I said, ‘I didn’t see a single guy on their team who couldn’t start for us,’” Patterson said. “And that’s the definition of a good team – and they are it. There’s a reason they are No. 1 in the state, but you know what, we will get another shot at them.”
Bermudez was “a little nervous” at the start of the year. He’s already picked off four passes. Bermudez tries to watch the quarterback’s eyes, and receiver’s hips to “see which way they are moving.”
“Try not to mess up,” Bermudez said. “But my teammates make me get my head up when I do, and that really just helps me out during the game.”
Offensively, he delivered three carries for 51 yards and a touchdown, the game’s last score. Before Friday, he had one catch, a five-yard TD, and one rush for minus-3 yards.
“He’s just got kind of a natural flow for sitting back at a safety or cornerback spot, and flowing to the ball,” Walden said. “He does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes, and he hears ‘Ball,’ he finds it, breaks on it quick, and he’s a fast kid. He does a really good job at that, and hands down, the one thing he’s given the most to our team right now is reliable pass coverage.”
Overall, Logan finished 5 of 7 passing for 79 yards. He entered the game 3 of 3 passing for 88 yards and two scores.
During the week, Cheylin wanted to spread out Natoma and use its speed. However, the Cougars struggled some early. A couple weeks ago, Cheylin installed the tight I formation with Logan at quarterback and Colton at running back. They often used the look Friday.
“That formation, we just kind of feel like makes us more dynamic and gives the defense a lot to look at,” Walden said.
Colton, up to 195 pounds, delivered several power runs, notably his 27-yard TD when he broke several tackles.
“Logan’s probably honestly just as good a quarterback as Colton is,” Walden said. “And we needed a steady running back that can get us eight, 10 yards a (carry).”
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