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2018 Prep Football Previews: Two-way senior starter will be key factor in Bellevue emulating past teams

The NKyTribune is featuring each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2018 season on Aug. 17. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Evan Merrill
NKyTribune contributor

Bellevue coach Woody McMillen aspires to get the Tigers back to the traditional ways of tough, hard-nosed football following a 5-6 finish last season.

“I feel like we’ve approached our off-season and our early summer stuff as it’s more of a boot camp-type mentality,” McMillen said. “We’re trying to get them more physically and mentally tougher. I do feel like they’ll look more like the classic Bellevue teams, at least I hope they do.”

A two-way starter at cornerback and running back, Bellevue senior Will Ryan is expected to be a playmaker on both sides of the ball.

One player assisting Bellevue in attaining that goal is senior Will Ryan.

A two-way starter at cornerback and running back, Ryan rushed for 633 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. He’s striving to exceed those numbers this season to offset the graduation of several skill position players, including quarterback Eric Atkins and wide receiver Seth Evers.

“I feel like we had playmakers like myself and Seth Evers to do the work (last year),” Ryan said. “Now that he’s gone, I have to step up and take a major role that I didn’t have to take last year. I feel like it’ll be a good year and I’ll be a factor in our offensive and defensive expectations.”

McMillen thinks highly of Ryan’s athletic skills and told him he needs to be a team leader on both sides of the ball for the Tigers.

“He’s said I have to go out and be confident, put a lot of trust in my teammates to go forward and not backward,” Ryan said.

Last season, the Bellevue offense had 1,757 yards passing compared to 964 yards rushing. For the Tigers to get back to the run-oriented offense that once made them a small-school state power, the offensive line will play a major factor.

“Our offensive line last year, I feel, was young and inexperienced,” the coach said. “This year, we have most of them back. I’ve been pretty pleased with their progress.”

Will Ryan rushed for 633 yards and seven touchdowns last year. (Photo by Jim Seward)

The Tigers’ top returning starters on defense are down lineman Austin Hazeres, linebackers Dan Hill and Aidan Quirk and Ryan, who had 34 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception last season.

“Will is an extremely talented two-sport athlete,” McMillen said. “He’s a very good basketball player as well. Football-wise, he’ll be one of our better defensive backs and he can run, he can throw, he can catch. I’ve been coaching three sports — basketball, football, or baseball — for 25 years and he’s as good of an athlete as I’ve been around.”

Two dates circled on Bellevue’s regular-season schedule each year are the home and away games against Dayton that continue one of the state’s longest standing high school football rivalries.

The teams split the two-game series in 2016. Last season, the Tigers won the first meeting at home and came out on top in an overtime thriller in the second game to retain the Battle of the Paddle traveling trophy.

“We have a lot of respect for them,” McMillen said of Dayton. “Last year, we won both (games). The second one was up at their place and we were ahead three touchdowns going into the fourth quarter. They kept fighting, took it into overtime and could have won the game. I told our kids, ‘That’s what a Dayton-Bellevue game should look like – a slugfest.’”

As a senior, Ryan would like to sweep the annual two-game series against Dayton once again this season.

“It was very important (last year) because our community doesn’t want to see us fail and lose The Paddle,” Ryan said. “It’s a big tradition at Bellevue to keep it, and that’s what we want to do.”

2017 season: 5-6 record, lost in first round of Class 1A playoffs.
District: Class 1A, District 4 with Beechwood, Dayton and Ludlow.
Head coach: Woody McMillen (15-28 in four seasons overall, 11-22 in three seasons at Bellevue).

Aug. 17 – NICHOLAS COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 – at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Brossart, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 – at St. Bernard (Ohio), 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – GALLATIN COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 – NEWPORT, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 – at Beechwood, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 – DAYTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – LUDLOW, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – at Walton-Verona, 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:




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