Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — Year after year, bright lights illuminate a valley in Bainbridge. It’s there where a football tradition has been carried on throughout the generations.
Last fall was no different as Paint Valley finished the regular season at 10-0 before advancing into a Week 12 playoff contest. The Scioto Valley Conference title was the program’s 12th while the playoff berth was its 11th.
This coming season, the Bearcats will return many of their key players including senior wide receiver and cornerback Cruz McFadden … who’s carrying on a family legacy of his own.
As we countdown the days to kickoff, we caught up with Cruz to discuss his expectations this year, what it’s like to play in a high-octane offense, and much more.
Question: I know it’s extremely early but what’s the early feeling like around the locker room?
McFadden: I feel like we are definitely more focused than last year. Last year, we were goofing around a little [in the beginning]. But this year, we have been focused and ready to compete. When it comes to practice, we are pushing each other to become better than ever.
Q: You guys win a Gold Ball last season and now, you bring back loads of talent from that team. After a trip to Week 12, how can you go even further this fall?
CM: Even though Week 12 didn’t go the way we wanted, we got there and that was the main point. Getting to Week 12 is a big accomplishment, so when you take a loss like that, you have to learn from it and move on. We learned last year that you have to be bigger and stronger to get past that point. But if we don’t take this season game by game, none of that really matters.
Q: What’s it like playing in such a high-octane offense with a QB like Bryce Newland?
CM: Playing in a high-octane offense with Bryce at QB is amazing. When you have so many threats and options like we have, it helps keep the defense off-balance.
Q: Can you talk about the Scioto Valley Conference race and your team’s chances of a repeat title?
CM: When you have so many good teams in the league, it’s kind of hard to tell what’s going to happen. But when you win the Gold Ball, there is always a target on your back. Everyone is out to get you. I believe that if we come out every game playing the best that we can, we have a high chance of a repeat.
Q: Individually, what can you improve on most?
CM: I think I can improve on so many things, but the one big thing is owning the ball. I need to be able to go get anything Bryce throws my way. Being able to own the ball will help Bryce gain confidence in me and it also helps open up the offense more.
Q: How about that turf? What advantage, if any, do you think the new playing surface gives you guys?
CM: The turf is amazing. I feel like the best advantage we have on the turf is our run game. Our run game was a major factor in our play last year, and with the turf, it’s going to make us faster and able to get to the outside.
Q: In an overall sense, what can we expect to see out of the Bearcats this coming season?
CM: You can expect a high-caliber offense that can score quickly, and a very tough, aggressive defense that will stop the run. Overall, a team that will do whatever it takes to win.