By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Entering Doug Buckmaster’s eighth season at Carl Junction, the Bulldogs will have no shortage of experience. Coming off of a season that saw them win four of their final seven regular season games, CJ is poised to right the ship in 2020.
The experience includes the return of senior quarterback Alex Baker who missed the entire 2019 season. Baker, who is receiving Division One and Division Two interest, gives Carl Junction two of the top quarterbacks in the Ozarks with Drew Patterson also back in the mix.
Patterson passed for 1,643 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. Both quarterbacks are capable of playing multiple positions, giving CJ even more versatility, but a quarterback battle will decide the starter.
“There’s nothing wrong with competition; it makes individuals and the team better,” said Buckmaster. “Everyone wants to talk about the return of Alex Baker at quarterback and he was great as a sophomore. A good senior season will boost his stock even more. He’s everything you want in a quarterback on and off the field. Now he has to prove it all over again.
“Drew stepped in and improved throughout last season; he showed a lot of physical toughness and has improved even more during the off-season and summer work-outs. Drew needs to keep competing. We have all seen how things can change overnight. He brings a lot more to the QB position now than he did a year ago. When we put pads on it will work itself out.”
Junior Kyler Perry is also in the conversation.
As for who they’ll throw to, the Bulldogs return plenty of options.
Senior Cole Stewart came on strong last fall, finishing the season with 657 yards on 36 receptions and six touchdowns. Classmate Noah Southern tallied 32 recepitons for 366 yards and five touchdowns from his tight end spot. Mylas Derfelt started in the slot last season and will be returning to that spot this fall.
There’s also the likelihood that whoever loses the quarterback battle will emerge as a top receiving target as well.
Also a standout wrestler, Stewart will have a chance to be one of the area’s top receivers in 2020.
“Cole is a physical playmaker in the run and pass game. Cole led our team in every receiving category. He has great ball skills and has that ability to go get the football. Don’t let his size influence your opinion of him as a player, he will prove you wrong every time. He also started at corner.”
Senior Brady Sims will look to improve on a great junior campaign. The dynamic playmaker proved he is a threat running the ball or catching it out of the backfield, finishing the season with 524 rushing yards and 139 receiving yards.
Sims will be running behind an experienced offensive line, led by seniors Ethan Howard and Reese Bonjour. Junior Jesse Cassatt is also back after being a two-way starter as a sophomore.
Juniors Kameron Bennett, Darris Hill, David Perriman and Carson Beckfield, as well as sophomore Ross Craig, will compete for reps along the offensive line.
Senior Brenden Jewell and Drew Beyer, as well as juniors Dalton Mills and Shane Diskin, will be in the mix at receiver. Senior Cooper Wyrick and junior Corbin Foglesong will look for carries out of the backfield.
Defensively CJ returns six starters.
Stewart and Southern return to their secondary and linebacking spots respectively. Seniors Jack Colgin and Trentyn Lehman will also be back in the secondary. Classmate Hunter Row will return to linebacker as well.
Cassatt, a state champion wrestler and All-COC defensive end, will anchor the line.
Seniors Sincere Williams and Dylan Eck, as well as sophomores Chance Benford, Arlen Wakefield and Aden Shipman will add defensive backfield depth.
Seniors Gabe Lyon and Issac Pence, as well as junior Aden Shipman, will look for playing time at linebacker.
Senior Dillon Demasters and Garrett Demasters, Jacob McDonald and juniors Brayden Bishop and Michael Phipps will all seek reps upfront.
Buckmaster also loves the versatility and playmaking ability of junior Carter Kennedy and sophomores Braxton Dodds and Cayden Bolinger. He believes they’ll make an impact somewhere on the field defensively.
Carl Junction has seen season-defining injuries in each of the last two off-seasons. The Bulldogs are now excited to enter this fall healthy and ready to return the program to the upper echelon of the COC, as well as Class 4 statewide.
“I’m hoping people will see a football team with better team chemistry, leadership and accountability by everyone involved in program top to bottom,” said Buckmaster. “We have had the largest number of students participating in our summer program than we have had at any time in the last seven years I have been at CJ. Largest senior class which I believe will provide better leadership. Players understanding effort will get you on the field and excellence will keep you there! There is power in numbers with the game of football.
“At this point in the middle of July we have the most depth than at any time in the past 3-4 years. Depth creates competition and competition makes your team better. A return to two-platooning something we believe in and have not been able to do the past two seasons will help our program greatly.”
Carl Junction will open the 2020 season at Willard on Aug. 28. The Bulldogs will play their home opener the following Friday against defending Class 5 state champion Carthage.