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BC Football Enters 2017 on High Note

2017 football season preview- pictures of Isaac Evans and Malivai Barker

BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater College football team enters 2017 on a high note after closing 2016 with a three-game winning streak that included victories over the top two ODAC teams from the previous year.

The Eagles redeemed a season that had started 2-5, with injuries to their top two quarterbacks, by coming from 13 down in the second half to win at Guilford, beating defending champion W&L 30-20 at Jopson Field, and then blowing out Catholic 50-13 in the Cardinals' final game as an ODAC member.

"Down the stretch we played our best football," said head coach Michael Clark. "Now whether you can carry momentum from November to September- I don't know, but I do think we're a team that needed to grow last year and we have a reason to positive."

Bridgewater returns most of their skill position players from 2016 and will have excellent speed on the outside.

The Eagles had two new challengers for the starting QB role in 2016 and both transfer Jay Scroggins and Brendon Maturey battled multiple injuries, with both knocked out in a loss to Randolph-Macon and sidelined for a subsequent home defeat to Shenandoah that derailed the early part of BC's conference slate. They return healthier in 2017, with Scroggins expected to start following his 16-TD, 7-INT performance last season.

Senior running back Malivai Barker broke out as a junior, earning second team All-ODAC honors with 1246 all-purpose yards- fifth-best in the ODAC. Speedsters Alex Galloway and Rayvon Johnson lead a fast group of receivers who are threats down the field, on screens, and even on end-around runs.

"When you have kids who can run and catch- let speed be a variable and you always have a chance," said Clark.

The Eagles will need to revamp the tight end position, a major focal point of the offense in recent years with departed seniors Keith Jennings and Zane Grudzinski, and find more contributors on the offensive line. The o-line does include returning All-ODAC center Jacob Heaton, starting left guard Kevin McKeon and starting left tackle Adam Albrecht.

After working with three defensive coordinators in three years, DC Rob Everett returns for a second season to lead a strong defense that made strides last season- especially in victories over Gettysburg and Washington & Lee wing option offenses that had given BC trouble the previous year.

The defensive line is deep with experienced veterans, including All-ODAC selection Sammie Harper and starting tackle Joe Cellini. On the outside, Roger White returns from injury and Muhammad Khan broke out late last year with 2.5 sacks in the season finale.

"When you can get control of the line of scrimmage, you can very subtly take control of the game," said Clark. That definitely applies to defending ODAC champions Randolph-Macon, who emerged behind dominant offensive and defensive fronts to earn a surprise title in 2016.

The big question mark on defense is linebacker. The Eagles knew they were losing two-time All-State backer Davey Hardesty, but projected starters Tyler Miller (third team All-ODAC, third on the team with 52 tackles) and Kaiden Lewis (second on the team with 60 tackles) also didn't return to the team.

"I've got the front and I've got the umbrella fairly secure," said Clark of his defense. "I just need to fill in the middle and my hope is that we can be pretty good there."

That secondary could be the biggest strength of the team. All-State cornerback Isaac Evans returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season; he will be joined by senior Josh Brooks and junior Davonta Womack. Womack returns from a season-ending injury last year and gives the Eagles two former ODAC MVP track sprinters on the field (along with Galloway).

Safety is just as deep, including hard-hitting All-ODAC linebacker/safety hybrid Chance Morris, Joe Caron and Brandon Pitt- two players who emerged last year as rookies, and Terrell Mickens- who joined Bridgewater College last year after being recruited to James Madison's secondary back in 2011.

The ODAC is down to seven teams with the departure of Catholic, before Ferrum joins as a new member next fall. That required Bridgewater to get creative with non-conference scheduling, but the Eagles will benefit from playing several tough opponents outside of conference competition.

Bridgewater travels near Cincinnati in Week 2 to face #19 Thomas More. They will also fly to St. Louis on the final week of the regular season to play NCAA qualifier Washington University, in what Clark hopes will be a dress rehearsal for an NCAA trip the next week. ODAC play begins September 30 at Hampden-Sydney.

"We have two home ODAC games and four on the road," said Clark. "That makes it a little bit difficult for our kids, but let's put the ball down and let's play- I'm certainly looking forward to the challenges."