The Bartlett Bears had a rough start to 2013 going 0-5 to start the season, experimenting with a spread offense. This year they’re going back to the traditional wing-T, but head coach Daniel Esparza says the success of this team lies with the defense.
“I coached here in 2009 when we won the state championship and we were very, very good defensively and these kids really remind me a lot of that group — very physical, very big,” Esparza said. “We’re hoping for them to be able to do the same that we did then.”
The Bears return eight starters on a defense that ranked in the top three in the state. Their dominance is fueled with a no-fear attitude.
“We were raised in this program to be fearless and whenever we come out on the field to do what we can to own it — own the game,” said senior defensive back, Deionte Love.
Nobody has owned the game better than the underclassmen. Incoming sophomores and juniors for the Bears have never lost a game in high school. Combined, the two classes are on a 29-game winning streak.
“That definitely helps when we’re getting these kids up now on varsity,” Esparza said. “All they’ve been doing in high school is winning.”
It also helps to have a good finish to last season. The Bears ended 2013 winning their final three games by a combined score of 111-22. Part of the reason was scrapping the spread offense mid-season, but Love also attributes some of the success to team chemistry.
“At the start of the season, it was just like everybody wanted to be part of their own little thing,” Love said. “Seniors wanted to be like seniors, juniors with juniors. But towards the end of the season we realized that that just wasn’t working out for anybody, so we just had to come together.”
Coming together in 2014 could help the bears reach their goal of reaching the top.
“We want to compete with the Service, Souths and Wests of the world and we want to play tough against them,” Esparza said. “If we’re doing that then in my mind we’re getting there.”