North Platte, Neb-- (KNOP) Bernie Madison and his 2017 North Platte Bulldogs football team are entering 2017 with a chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove to those in the area and in class A.
The Bulldogs are two years removed from a 5-5 record and a birth in the state playoffs. Last season the team started the season 1-0 but lost seven straight to finish 2-7.
2017 though is a clean slate for the Bulldogs as the team returns a total of 11 starters between the offense and defense and coming off of their 2016 season many in the state see them as a walk through type of game but they are hoping to have teams eat those words come game day.
"We have some of the best skill position guys in the state. It's just if we can get our line to dig deep and be as good as I think they can be then we can be great," senior quarterback and linebacker Braiden Ruffin said.
"People kind of see us as a win-able game and we are going to try and get some respect and let people know that the Bulldogs are class A and should be class A and we are going to try and prove that this year," head coach Bernie Madison said.
Offensively look for the Bulldogs to utilize those skill players in the spread offense and the same can be said for their 4-2-5 defense.
This years team with so many returners has the chemistry to do big things and wants to do it for not only themselves but the city of North Platte as well.
"We pack these stands every Friday night and everyone is here supporting us so I think we just need to do it for them rather than us. I mean for us too but more importantly for the fans and stuff like that that come to all of our games and support us so much," senior wide receiver and linebacker Kyle Zimbelman said.
"You really want it for the kids but the community is just as important and as valuable to us as a team. Our kids are involved and want that for the community as well," coach Madison said.
For this years 2017 team our player to watch is going to be senior quarterback and linebacker Braiden Ruffin. The senior enters the season coming off of a 2016 season that saw him throw for close to 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with over 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns on offense.
"Yeah he is a really special guy to have because he is well at passing and if it comes to him having to scramble he is pretty darn good at it and he can make some moves in the back field and stuff to get away from tackles and get in the end zone," Zimbelman said.
On defense, Ruffin was one of the teams top tacklers with 43 total to go along with an interception and a tackle for a loss making it easy for coach Madison to praise him on and off the field.
"Pretty good athlete and he knows the system and that helps a ton. You know his where-with-all is great with the other kids, his leadership is outstanding. You know he's 4.0, you know he does things well and does things right. The way they are supposed to be done," coach Madison said.
The Bulldogs will open the season on Aug. 25 at home against Fremont.
Player to Watch: Senior-Braiden Ruffin, QB/LB
08/25/17 Fremont A 0-0
09/01/17 @ Grand Island A 0-0
09/08/17 @ Kearney A 0-0
09/15/17 Omaha Central A 0-0
09/22/17 Lincoln High A 0-0
09/29/17 @ Lincoln Southwest A 0-0
10/06/17 @ Millard West A 0-0
10/13/17 Papillion-LaVista South A 0-0
10/20/17 @ Omaha Bryan A 0-0