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10:42 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Preview: Bradshaw Mountain football opens region play, seeks first 5-0 start in 32 years

Prep Football

Bradshaw Mountain’s Austin Mata breaks a long gain as the Bears host Greenway Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Prescott Valley. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

Bradshaw Mountain’s Austin Mata breaks a long gain as the Bears host Greenway Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Prescott Valley. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

PRESCOTT VALLEY — Bradshaw Mountain’s football team has gone 5-0 to start a season only once in its history, and the 2018 Bears are on the cusp of replicating the feat.

At 7 tonight, Sept. 14, the Bears carry their unblemished 4-0 record into Kingman for their 4A Grand Canyon region opener against Lee Williams at Volunteer Stadium.

They could match the incredible start of the 1986 team under former coach Steve Moran. Thirty-two years ago, Bradshaw Mountain rolled to a 7-0 start before enduring its first loss. The 1986 Bears squad finished the regular season at 9-1, going on to lose in the state quarterfinals.

Last Oct. 13, Bradshaw Mountain buried Lee Williams, 35-15, en route to a 4-6 finish. Tonight, the Bears are looking to completely reverse what transpired in 2017 – a 0-5 start that frayed the nerves of the team and its fans.

GAMEDAY PREVIEW — WEEK 5

Who: Bradshaw Mountain Bears at Lee Williams Volunteers

When: Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.

Where: Volunteer Stadium, Kingman

Courier Coverage: Follow sports writer Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc for updates on Friday night’s game.

Coaches: Bradshaw Mountain – Chuck Moller (2nd Year); Lee Williams – Clint Sasse (2nd Year).

Records: Bradshaw Mountain (4-0, 0-0 Grand Canyon); Lee Williams (2-2, 0-0 Grand Canyon).

Last Week: Bradshaw Mountain beat Greenway, 42-20; Lee Williams beat Kingman Academy, 53-0.

Last Meeting: Bradshaw Mountain 35, Lee Williams 15 (Oct. 13, 2017).

The Setting: Bradshaw Mountain is 2-0 on the road this season. Lee Williams is 2-1 at home this season.

Players to Watch: Bradshaw Mountain – RB Anthony Mata, RB/SS Logan Brannan, SS Elijah Knisely, LB/P Luke Huenemeyer. Lee Williams – QB Enzo Marino, WR Andrew Herrera, RB/LB Cameron Ott, OL/DT Mike Bathauer.

Weather Forecast: 86 degrees at kickoff, 8 mph SSW, Sunset at 6:45 p.m.

This season, Lee Williams (2-2 overall record) began 0-2, suffering losses to 4A West Valley region member Lake Havasu (34-14, Aug. 17) and 4A Southwest region member Buckeye Union (22-20, Aug. 24). But the Volunteers have since rallied, topping 3A foes River Valley, 28-14 (Aug. 31) and Kingman Academy, 53-0 (Sept. 7).

“Anytime you face a region team, you have to take a step back, look and see who can step up,” Bears coach Chuck Moller said. “Lee Williams is very capable. Their players play hard. If we let them hang around, they can beat you.”

Bradshaw Mountain has registered victories over four 4A opponents during its four-game winning streak. The Bears have started slowly in each contest, but once they settled in, they were able to establish a rhythm.

Bradshaw Mountain has beaten Estrella Foothills (1-3 record), Shadow Mountain (1-2), Youngker (1-2) and Greenway (2-1) thus far. Tougher tests will follow in the coming weeks, including road games at Coconino (3-0 record, Sept. 21) in Flagstaff and Mingus Union (3-1, Oct. 12) in Cottonwood.

“Our progression has been good,” Moller said. “We’ve improved every week, and we continue to improve.”

The following is a breakdown for Lee Williams’ offense, defense and special teams.

OFFENSE

Lee Williams is led by senior quarterback Enzo Marino (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), who completed 10 of 14 passes for 145 yards and five TDs over Kingman Academy last week. He regained the starter’s job from senior Andrew Herrera, who’s a 6-foot-4, 175-pound wideout.

If Marino struggles, Herrera is a capable backup. In 2017, Marino garnered All-Grand Canyon region honorable mention honors, completing 61 of 149 passes for 883 yards with five interceptions and seven TDs. Both can run and pass. Cameron Ott (5-10, 160) is the lead running back.

“They look like they would rather pass than run,” Moller said. “Overall, they’re a solid team.”

DEFENSE

The Volunteers are proficient at forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them. But Bradshaw Mountain has done a yeoman’s job of holding onto the football this season, and that strategy likely won’t work against the Bears.

Lee Williams has forced 10 turnovers through three games from a defense that returned six starters. The Vols’ d-line possesses decent size and is guided by twin brothers Matt and Mike Bathauer, who are three-sport athletes and third-year starters.

Matt Bathauer tallied a team-best 14 tackles for loss in 2017 and was an eventual First Team All-Region pick.

Mike, who finished second on the 2017 team in sacks with four on his way to Second Team All-Region accolades, already has four sacks and nine tackles for loss in the Vols’ first three games.

When he’s not running the ball, Ott’s a linebacker who was an All-Region honorable mention selection last fall. In the defensive backfield, Robert Paulson (two interceptions) and Donnie Simms pace the unit.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Bathauer is a gifted punt blocker who, during the River Valley game, blocked a punt that led to a fumble recovery for touchdown by teammate Luigi Garibaldi.

At place kicker, Cody Ferrin has converted 13 of 15 extra points. At punter, Justin Martinez and Mike Bathauer have split time, although Martinez owns a 37.7-yard average per punt, and he has pinned three punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

In the return game, Simms has averaged 35.8 yards per kick return, including an 80-yard return for TD. Simms has sparkled despite playing in only five contests last fall. He suffered a season-ending broken leg in a win over Coconino in 2017.

Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.