Warriors lean on speed and athleticism in 2016

MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT – Initially, Matt Bear declined to take the position, but he wanted to be there for the Warriors. A football program he’s been involved with in one way or another for a long period time, Bear stepped up when the Warriors were left without a head coach.

When the Meskwaki Settlement football coach left the program days before fall camp was to begin, Bear stepped in on an interim basis, though he didn’t do it right away.

“I’ve been with the program for five years as a defensive coordinator,” Bear said. “I was offered the position, but I have another job that doesn’t allow me the time to be here.

“I was offered the head coaching position, and I declined it. It was offered to another coach, but he decided he didn’t want to coach football for whatever reason. We have a void here at head coach. I have a relationship with the kids. I’ve known the kids for a long time. Been around the program for a long time, so I’m happy to fill the role as interim head coach, but I have a great support staff. We have assistant coaches that have been here since the start of the program.”

Bear will now lead a young Warrior squad into the 2016 season of 8-man District 5. Meskwaki will be tasked with replacing more than 2,600 yards and 41 touchdowns of offensive production, a good majority of that coming from Terrell Grant. The 2015 signal caller, Grant accounted for 2,099 yards of offense (788 passing, 1,311 rushing) and 32 touchdowns (11 passing, 21 rushing). Kade Brown also ran for 443 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. Another senior, Allis Tahahwah, was on the receiving end of 510 of those yards and eight touchdowns.

Meskwaki will turn to youth at the skill positions, starting with Jarius Bear at the quarterback position. Only a sophomore, Jarius did see time under center as a freshman. He threw for 482 yards and seven touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing. Jarius is also the leading returning rusher with just 19 yards a year ago.

“We’re a young team. We’re looking to develop some players, bring them up through the system. That’s what we’re doing. Trying to coach these younger kids up. Hopefully we get some leadership from our senior class. A small senior class, but we have some guys that have been in the system a long time,” Coach Bear said. “Looking forward to filling that void. It is a big void, but I think we can do it. We have a young explosive player and a couple younger quarterbacks coming up, and I think they’ll be able to do the job.”

The skill position players won’t be completely on their own. For as young as the Warriors are at the skill areas, they make up for with experience along the line. Coach Bear said Orlando Kapayou has been a staple on the offensive line, and Ramon Garcia has been on the offensive line as long as he’s been with the program.

“I don’t see much problems with protection. I think developing our receiver routes. In our receiving core will be younger guys, but we do have speed,” Coach Bear said. “We have speed and some athletes. We’re going to try our best to utilize that speed and athleticism to produce some yards.”

Guys like Kapayou and Garcia, along with Marquez Lasley-Santos will also be expected to rely on their experience along the defensive line. The top four tacklers from a year ago graduated, leaving Jarius Bear as the top returning tackler, having made 37 stops in 2015. Kapayou made 22 tackles and led the team with three sacks. Garcia added 11 tackles and a sack.

With youth and inexperience at the linebacker and defensive back positions, Coach Bear said it will be on one of the young guys to step up on the defensive side of the ball.

“Hopefully Tate Bear can step up and fill a role at linebacker,” Coach Bear said “Young kid coming up, he’ll be a sophomore this year. Hopefully fill a void with his athleticism and speed to fill those gaps on defense.”

Meskwaki kickoffs the season on Friday in Janesville at 7 p.m.