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Bastrop's Griedl banking on Bowden's four phases of a football program

Quintaelyn Joyner, the starting quarterback at Manor last season as a sophomore, has gotten the nod from Bastrop coaches based on his experience and athleticism. His older brother, Quinten, is currently a running back at USC

By Jim Irish

Photos by Jim Irish

When Jake Griedl accepted the head football position at Bastrop High School, he understood that he was walking into a turnaround program.

The Bears might advance to the playoffs one season, but they were not a consistent playoff team.

Preseason advance

True to form, the Bears struggled in Griedl’s inaugural season in 2022, losing their first five games and finishing 2-8.

To be fair, only one loss — against perennial powerhouse Liberty Hill 61-7 — was lopsided.

Bastrop dug itself a hole losing its first five games in 2022

The first five losses were all under ten points: Lehman 42-34, Leander 28-23, Westwood 49-42, Pflugerville 42-35, and San Antonio Pieper 30-21.

"You look at those games, and we were four plays from being 4-0."

-- Bastrop coach Jake Griedl about the start of the 2022 season

Against Lehman, Bastrop failed to punch it in on the last play of the game from the 8-yard line. The Bears were on the 6-yard line on the last play against Leander. Against Westwood, They fumbled on the 2-yard line in overtime. A touchdown was called back with two minutes to play against Pflugerville.

“You look at those games, and we were four plays from being 4-0,” Griedl says. “How does that change our season, momentum-wise, spirit-wise? We can’t do anything about the past but learn from it.”

"We can't do anything about the past but learn from it."

-- Griedl speaking about 2-8 season

The offense — a multiple spread — will have a much different look without graduates Seth Mouser (UTEP), Julius Baynard (A&M at Kingsville), and De’mire Thompson (Louisiana Christian University).

Keyshon Moore will be a breakaway threat from multiple positions on offense and also play defense

Weapons abound on offense

But the 2023 roster will have offensive weapons. Returning starter Keyshon Moore (5-foot-7, 160, jr) excelled on offense and defense and was selected first team at utility in District 13-5A. He rushed for 293 yards and 5 touchdowns and gained 356 yards receiving with 3 touchdowns. He’ll line up in multiple positions to keep defenses off guard and has the quickness to break big plays.

Another offensive weapon is Manor transfer Quintaelyn Joyner, who started at quarterback as a sophomore for a 7-4 team that advanced to the playoffs. Joyner (6-0, 200) has the right pedigree. His one-year-older brother, Quinten, was the Manor running back who gained almost 1,800 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. He is currently a freshman vying for playing time at the University of Southern California.

Manor transfer Quintaelyn Joyner possesses the right pedigree

In youth football, Quinten always lined up at running back, while Quintaelyn settled in at quarterback. Joyner will be a dual threat as a runner (10.9 in the 100 last spring in track) and passer.

“He’s grown up at quarterback,” Griedl says about Joyner, who could play in the secondary in big moments. “At full sprint, he can hit 23 miles per hour.”

Other returning starters on offense are second-team all-district center Matthew Martin (5-11, 265, sr.) and guard Tavion Nichols (6-0, 240, sr.).

Del Valle transfer Jaxon Taylor towers over opponents at nearly 6-foot-6 and more than 300 pounds

Newcomers who will start are Jaxon Taylor, a Del Valle transfer at right tackle (nearly 6-6, 308, jr), left tackle Isaiah Walker-Lopez (6-1, 260, so.), and wide receiver Jaelyn Gratten (6-2, 170, jr.)

“He can stretch the field,” Griedl says about Gratten, a starter on the basketball team with quickness.

Griedl says Walker-Lopez is really light on his feet and will be a collegiate offensive lineman.

Completing the offense are wide receiver Bryan Pauley (5-9, 155, jr.), tight end Andrew Hammond (6-2, 240, jr.), running back Ladanian Merino (5-7, 170, jr.), and guard Tyler Phung (5-9, 230, jr.).

Bastrop will be hard pressed to replace kicker James Ramon, who nailed the winning field goal in the closing seconds against Kerrville last season. Newcomer Isaac Dugger will handle the kicking chores this season, and, like Ramon, has never played football.

“He’s on the Ramon plan, so hopefully, he turns out just as good,” Griedl says.

Defense returns nine starters in quest to stymie opposing offenses

While the offense scored points, the defense struggled to make stops.

But the defense returns nine starters, including two named to the all-district team.

“We base out of a three-down (line front),” Griedl says about the defensive alignment. “We’ll change fronts depending on the (opposing) offense.”

Wesley Donner was an all-district pick at defensive end but moves to inside linebacker to have more impact

Wesley Donner (6-0, 225, sr.) was a first-team all-district choice at defensive end but will shift to inside linebacker, where he’ll have more impact.

Linebacker Val Regalado (6-1, 240, so.) was a second-team all-district pick as a precocious freshman.

In the middle of the three-man front is 15-year-old Tiki Hola (6-3, 270, so.), who started all ten games as a freshman. Hola has so impressed college coaches on film and at summer camps that he has already received scholarship offers from Power Five’s Texas, Georgia, Texas Tech, Tennessee, and Houston.

Griedl says Hola was physical as a freshman and often received double coverage.

“He demanded teams to prepare for him,” Griedl says. “He had the mental capacity to learn a varsity defense and go out there and perform at a high level. That was encouraging to see.”

Also returning as defensive starters are safety Jordan Riley (5-11,160, jr.), safety Andy McCarus (5-10, 170, jr.), end Ethan Bulak (6-1, 255, jr.), inside linebacker Joey Hernandez (5-11, 180, jr.), end Pedro Flores (6-2, 250, sr.), and cornerback Braden Tuck (6-0, 155, sr.). Tuck is also the backup quarterback.

Defensive tackle Tiki Hola, a 15-year-old sophomore, has received offers from five Power Five universities

Completing the starting eleven on defense are safety Nate Soriano (5-8, 170, jr.) and cornerback Brett Cannaday (6-0, 155, jr.).

“On defense, we’ll be similar, but we’ll have more wrinkles because we do have a lot of returners,” Griedl says. “Our staff shapes our offense and defense schemes around our personnel rather than what we know as coaches. We don’t want to shove a square peg in a round hole.”

Improvement require on special teams

Griedl and staff are focusing on improvement of special teams, which allowed seven touchdowns last season. The majority were on kickoff returns. Griedl remembers in particular the game against Lockhart, which opened the third quarter with a successful onside kick and then scored on the next play.

"... You can't forget about the third phase of the game. ... We can't give free touchdowns."

-- Griedl stressing the importance of special teams

“That is the game changer,” Griedl says about mistakes on special teams. “You can’t forget about the third phase of the game. We’ve been heavy on that. We can’t give free touchdowns.”

Griedl adheres to Bobby Bowden's philosophy on four phases of a program

Griedl mentions Bobby Bowden, the late Florida State coach, who listed four phases in the development of a football program. The first is getting beat badly; the second is losing close games; the third is winning close games; and the fourth is beating teams badly.

"I'm hoping we're in that third phase. We start beating people in close games."

-- Griedl addressing Bobby Bowden's four phases of a football program

“I’m hoping we’re in that third phase,” Griedl says. “We start beating people in close games. Hopefully not too close, because my stress level goes through the roof.”

Dave Campbell football magazine ranked Bastrop fifth in District 13-5A.

“The four teams ranked above us beat us last year,” Griedl says. “Common sense for them is to put that (ranking) in there. No one’s going to believe that we can (win) until we do. Those teams earned those spots… I hope next year that’s not the case.”

Another point of emphasis is “closing out games,” Griedl says.

“We had opportunities to win most every game except the last game of the season,” he added. “That was really encouraging. I’ve challenged myself and my staff in terms of learning from last year and doing a better job of play calling and placing kids in better situations. We’ve dove into that this offseason.”

Bastrop opens at Lehman at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 25.

Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas

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