A concussion caused Beau Ewton to miss Pilot Point’s final football game in 2011. But it was his choice to miss the first five days of 2012 preseason practice, having decided to concentrate his athletic talents solely on baseball as a senior.
That notion was short-lived.
On the sixth day of practice, the 5-11, 210-pound senior missed football so much he rejoined the guys he had played with since third grade, convinced his goal of being a Division I college baseball player could wait until the spring.
“I woke up and it was just weird without football,” Ewton said. “I knew they were out here and I wanted to be with them. I came out to watch the first day of practice in pads and it was too much. I missed hitting people.”
During his one Friday as a preseason practice spectator, Ewton was encouraged by his cousin, Bearcat defensive back Austin Trinklein, other teammates, fans and even one texting-during-practice assistant coach to ask second-year head coach Rob Best for permission to rejoin the team.
He was suited up and back on the field the next day.
“We’ve got a winning tradition here, and we need to start it back,” Ewton said.
Ewton was named a second-team All-District 9-3A linebacker last season, the second straight year the Bearcats missed the playoffs.
Coming on the heels of Pilot Point’s unbeaten 2009 Class 2A state championship, the playoff absence — and combined 6-13 record — would be shocking.
The recent struggles are less astounding considering they came after the Bearcats were kicked up to Class 3A, where their mid-400s high school enrollment left them several hundred students short of the numbers several of their district opponents had to choose from.
The preseason excitement at Pilot Point this summer has a lot to do with the school having been placed back in the 2A ranks by the University Interscholastic League’s biennial realignment.
“Last year’s schedule was tough, and we knew it would be coming into the season, because we’d played all those teams that year before,” said Trinklein, one of five returning defensive starters looking to tighten up a unit that allowed 40 points per game in last year’s 2-7 campaign.
Bearcat quarterback Travis Garrett, a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore, went 0-5 as a freshman starter last year, completing 49 percent of his passes for 227 yards and two scores while running for 150 yards and two more touchdowns.
“Getting to know the speed of 3A and how fast it was, I think it will help me and all the other kids coming up, too,” Garrett said.
The Bearcats have better depth than a year ago. Best looks for Garrett, junior running back Tristen Jurecka and senior receivers Jacob Lock and Mason Richey to spark the offense with some big plays.
Jurecka rushed for 297 yards and two scores last year while Richey caught 12 passes for 149 yards and Lock hauled in 14 balls for 77 yards. Ewton could help the Bearcat offense at fullback or tight end.
“Garrett was pressed into duty at quarterback because of injury, and he struggled some,” Best said. “But he got valuable experience. He’s an outstanding athlete.”
Bowie, Boyd, Callisburg, Paradise, Ponder and Whitesboro join Pilot Point in District 5-2A (DI) for the next couple of seasons.
“It’s still a formidable schedule,” Best said. “But it’s one that’s more in line with where we are.”
District: 5-2A (DI)
2011 record: 2-7 (1-4 District 9-3A)
Coach: Rob Best (2-7 in one season at Pilot Point)
Returning starters: Six on offense, five on defense
Key players: QB Travis Garrett, WR/DB Jacob Lock, WR/DB Mason Richey, RB/LB Tristen Jurecka, TE/DE Beau Ewton, OL/DL Matthew Poursoltani, WR/DB Jason Juarez
School enrollment: 428
Stadium: Massey Stadium
Keys to a historic season
See offensive line mature
The success of the Pilot Point offense will depend to a great extent on how fast the team’s offensive line matures. A group of blockers led by senior returning starters Coyt Kimbrell (6-0, 205) and Zach Buckmeier (6-1, 265) won’t be short on size, just experience. Freshman Jake Allen (6-2, 220) joins senior Riley Stottle (5-8, 240) and junior Eric Zepeda (5-11, 215) as newcomers up front.
STEP UP, SHUT DOWN
In senior defensive tackle Matthew Poursoltani, the Bearcats have a rock solid defensive anchor. The 5-9, 275-pounder set a state all-classifications bench press record of 570 pounds during last year’s powerlifting season. A defense that also includes returning starters Beau Ewton, Austin Rider, Jason Juarez and Austin Trinklein needs to cut down on opponents’ big plays like those that helped foes average 40 points per game last year. The Bearcats will have a better chance of returning to the playoffs if its defense improves.
ENJOY THE SCENERY
After winning just three district games in two years of 9-3A membership, the Bearcats are back in Class 2A, where they won the 2009 state title, adding to their back-to-back titles in 1980 and 1981. “Most of Pilot Point’s history has taken place at the 2A level,” second-year head coach Rob Best said. “We’re really a 2A program. The community feels best at that level. There are no guarantees going to 2A, just opportunities. It’s our team’s job to take advantage of the opportunities.”
STAY STURDY late in games
Eight Bearcat starters missed a combined 32 games last year, which meant most of the remaining players rarely came off the field, even when they ran out of gas late in games. This year’s team will open the season with less than a handful of two-way starters.