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2019 Prep Football Previews: Two-way starter ready to carry out new Bellevue head coach’s game plan

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 2019 season on Aug. 23. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Is he better at wide receiver or cornerback? Like a lot of two-way starters in high school football, Bellevue senior Gunner Barnes is the subject of that kind of debate going into the 2019 season.

Last year, Barnes was the Tigers’ leading pass receiver with 17 catches for 297 yards and five touchdowns. He also had a team-high four interceptions on defense and finished among the team’s top five in tackles.

Bellevue senior Gunner Barnes was the team leader in pass interceptions and pass receiving yards last season.

“He’s a good cornerback, but he’s better with the ball in his hands,” said Bellevue’s first-year head coach Cie Cie Wood. “He’s a good (pass) route runner. He’s really good at getting into open space and he’s very shifty. He’s hard to tackle and get to the ground.”

But Barnes said defense is what he prefers to play, and he gives coach Wood much of the credit for his success on that side of the ball.

“If I had to chose, I’d probably go defense because of the way coach Wood was last year (as defensive coordinator),” Barnes said. “He just made everything on the defensive end more exciting. He helped me become the defensive back I was last year.”

Wood is taking charge of the Bellevue program after being an assistant for seven years under three previous head coaches. He said the Tigers have five returning starters on offense and six on defense from a team that lost in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs and finished with a 5-6 record.

The top three rushers on last year’s team graduated, but junior quarterback Aaron Atkins is returning along with Barnes, who was one of three wide receivers voted first-team all-district by Class 1A coaches last year.

But Barnes said a defensive play he made in Bellevue’s 28-20 win over Brossart was the highlight of his junior season.

“The game got delayed because of the weather and when we came back out in the second half we were up a touchdown,” Barnes recalled. “On their last drive to try and come back and tie the game up, I got a game-saving interception against them.”

Cie Cie Wood

Barnes, who also plays basketball and baseball for Bellevue, could be making more memories on the offensive side of the ball with the playbook coach Wood has put together.

Will Ryan, the Tigers’ leading rusher the last two seasons, has graduated. But Woods expects to move the ball on the ground once again behind the “biggest offensive line we’ve had in a long time.”

“We’re going to establish the inside run game and use short intermediate passes to keep the defense on their heels,” the coach said. “I like the way we’re running the ball and the movement we’re getting up front in practice. Our short game passing is coming along as well.”

Bellevue did not score in its final two games last season. Barnes and the other seniors on the roster are counting on the new coach’s offensive game plan to prevent shutouts from happening this season.

“He has higher standards for us, which is a good thing,” Barnes said. “He holds all of us accountable for everything we do in school and on the field.”

A statewide realignment put Newport Central Catholic in the local Class 1A district for the next four seasons. The Thoroughbreds are replacing a Beechwood team that won the last three Class 1A state titles.

“We welcome them,” coach Wood said of NewCath. “It’s a good rivalry game, so it’s nice to have them back on the schedule. They are always good, but you want to play the best teams in your area.”

2018 SEASON:
5-6 record, lost in first round of Class 1A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 1A, District 4 with Dayton, Ludlow, Newport Central Catholic.
HEAD COACH: Cie Cie Wood (First season as head coach).

Aug. 23 – vs. Holy Cross at Thomas More University, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30 – DAYTON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 – BROSSART, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 – ST. BERNARD (Ohio), 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 – at Gallatin County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 – at Newport, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 – at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 – at Ludlow, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 – HOLMES, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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