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Bellaire High School

Bonar Returns to Bellaire Looking To Continue Recent Run of Success

BELLAIRE — Often times coaching changes occur and it includes a major rebuilding job.

Mark Bonar walked into no such situation.

The 69-year old, who hasn’t been a head coach at the high school level since coaching St. Clairsville more than two decades ago, takes over a team at Bellaire that returns more than a solid nucleus from a 10-2, OVAC championship squad.

“When I took the job, I honestly didn’t know what to expect personnel wise, but we have really good personnel,” Bonar said. “Obviously, there were some big losses (to graduation) from last year’s team and you can’t replace those guys, but we’ll do something else to offset it.”

Bonar takes over the Big Reds reins from Mark Spigarelli, who enjoyed an impressive six seasons at the helm.

“I think Spig did a fantastic job,” Bonar said. “His teams were fundamentally sound and well coached.”

Bonar, who had served as an assistant at Shadyside during his time away from head coaching for a couple of seasons, admitted there were times when he was out of coaching when he didn’t miss it.

“I would ride by (practice) fields during the summer and see people out there and think, ‘that doesn’t look like much fun,'” Bonar admitted. “But, being back out there is really invigorating and so much fun. I honestly don’t know how else to explain it. The kids have been working so hard and it’s really enjoyable.”

Bellaire fans are certainly no stranger to Bonar. He was the offensive coordinator for some of the premier Big Reds’ teams in school history, including the 1995 and 1996 Division IV state runner-up squads.

His familiarity with the program, school and players’ families has certainly helped to ease the transition.

“I think there are 10 kids on our team that I either coached their parents and even a grandparent,” Bonar confessed. “So many people that I have a connection with because of my prior time at Bellaire. I think that gives me a little bit more freedom since they know me.”

There will certainly be some similarities in the schemes that Bonar and his coaching staff try to employee, but there will be some variation, too. Actually, since Bonar has been away from coaching, he thinks that could give him an advantage — especially early — since there isn’t much prior information out there from which to prepare.

“Football isn’t much different from the last time I coached (at Bellaire), so we’ll still be an I (formation) team,” Bonar said. “I could be proven wrong, but I still believe in it.”

The Big Reds’ commitment during the winter, spring and summer leading into training camp has really resonated with Bonar. Though he is now familiar with the personnel, he had an inkling of what could be in store just because of how hard he saw his team work.

“I’ve been blessed with Mike Sechrest as our strength coach,” Bonar said. “He and Tom Tuttle have done a great job and you really can’t believe the improvements the kids have made. Adam Quirk has worked with our guys and their speed has increased dramatically. It’s simply a matter that the kids believe it and when that happens it makes it so much easier.”

While the schemes may be similar and the Big Reds are stronger, one of the biggest challenges could be finding a way to replace First Team All-Ohioan Colt Sechrest, who was arguably the best player in the Ohio Valley last season. He’s now at Youngstown State University.

“Losing Colt is a big loss,” Bonar said. “He was a great player and he will be missed.”

Sechrest wasn’t the only loss. Timmy O’Grady earned All-Ohio acclaim and played in the OVAC All-Star Game last month. Jaiden Kesterson was also chosen for the OVAC Game.

Other graduation losses include: Aidan Frazier, Bradley Kosky, Nick Materkoski, Jaren Cash, Lance Piper, Michael Kuri, Dante Patrone, Luke Farmer, Daniel Zwack, Logan Davenport, Skyler Evans and Isaac McConnell.

Bellaire’s roster for 2022 includes upwards of 60 players with a solid mix between the four classes.

“Our seniors have been great leaders,” Bonar said. “They really lead by example and I am loving the push they’re giving the younger kids. I see it every day. Our young guys have been fantastic in terms of helping us whether they’re on the scout team or in the mix. They’re giving us great feedback. It’s really been a great team effort.”

Offensively, the Big Reds feature experience at many of the skill spots. No spot is more experienced than quarterback where senior Jake Heatherington (6-2, 180) returns for his fourth season as the starter.

A year ago, Heatherington completed 118 of 228 passes for 1,608 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He rushed for 348 yards and seven touchdowns.

“Jake is driven to be good,” Bonar said. “He played a lot of baseball this summer, so we wanted to protect his arm, but he kept doing even more than we asked.”

Sophomore Luke Heatherington (6-0, 135) and junior Mac Mac Pettigrew (5-10, 150) are other options at quarterback.

The Big Reds boast a lot of experience at running back, too.

Senior Brayden Roth (5-10, 175) emerged during the course of the season in 2021 as the top ball carrier. He lugged it 151 times for 828 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Junior Drew White (6-0, 170) is another right in the mix for carries at the tailback spot.

At fullback, the Big Reds plan to employ both senior Joey Lewis (5-7, 155) and junior Chickie LaMotte (6-0, 180). Lewis rushed for 314 yards and scored three touchdowns a season ago.

“I think those tailbacks are both really good runners,” Bonar said. “The fullbacks will both play. I’ve really been pleased with all of those kids at those running back positions.”

Bellaire’s greatest depth is probably on the perimeter at wide receiver.

“All of our options at receiver are fast and they can all catch,” Bonar said. “It’s going to come down to a what’s your speciality kind of thing. Some guys are better on certain routes and some guys will be able to show what they can do and use those special skills.”

Senior Ray Ray Pettigrew (5-10, 165) caught 28 passes for 508 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Classmate Jakob Dowling (6-2, 175) caught 29 passes for 298 yards and his only touchdown was a game winner against Shadyside.

Junior Khalil Kimbro (6-1, 155) is expected to take on a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball.

Senior Chance Maffe (5-10, 160), sophomore Maurice Webb (6-3, 165), junior Luca D’Aquila (5-10, 160), Luke Heatherington and Mac Mac Pettigrew are all viable options.

At the tight end spot, Bonar pointed a trio of players who could all share the load there. Junior Logan Edgar (6-2, 155), senior Brenton Nauman (6-1, 210) and senior Terrin Frazier (5-10, 145) have all looked good thus far.

Other skill position players looking to work their way into the mix are seniors T.J. Wines (5-10, 160), Tyler Collins (6-2, 205); juniors Austin Wiggins (5-8, 155), Lane Clark (6-1, 130), Hunter Watson (5-10, 125), Carl Lewis (5-9, 140), sophomores Landon Preston (5-10, 155), Riley Robbins (5-8, 115), Grant Vasey (5-8, 115), Braydn Beckett (5-10, 135); freshmen Quinten Scott (5-8, 125), Scott Balsei (5-8, 120), Graham Campbell (5-10, 150), Gavin Alloway (5-8, 115), Collin Snider (5-10, 130), Alex Ney (5-9, 140), Kain Shepherd (5-6, 115) and Noah Pramik (6-0, 155).

“I know people may think we’re dinosaurs for running out of the I (formation) and being under center, but I watched Jurassic Park and the dinosaurs kind of win,” Bonar said. “I am old fashioned. I like huddling. I like being under center. We have great speed and we’d be crazy i we didn’t throw the ball. I really believe we can be an explosive offense.”

Some of the Big Reds biggest holes on the offensive side are up front where the likes of O’Grady, Zwack, Farmer and Materkoski played last season.

“We’re not as deep up front, but we’re pretty good,” Bonar said.

Senior Lucas Littell (6-1, 250) is a returnee at guard.

The other spots have been battles in camp. Junior Joey Nixon (5-10, 265) is expected to be at tackle, while sophomore Keegan Davis (6-1, 185) has shifted to the interior line from tight end and is in the mix.

Sophomore Brody Holt (6-0, 230) is another in the mix at numerous spots. Senior Tyler Vingia (5-10, 220) is back out for football after not playing a season ago and he’s expected to serve as the center.

Junior Dalton Smelko (5-10, 215) is rounding back into form and should contribute after sustaining a knee injury.

Sophomore Colton Henthorn (6-0, 280) is also heavily in the mix to see quality action. Senior Isaac Salva (5-10, 220) is expected to contribute, but he’s been slowed in camp by some injuries.

Senior Braylon Kinder (6-0, 240) is a senior guard and will see significant action.

Other linemen providing depth are senior Talon Hughes (6-0, 200), junior Jayson Lemley (6-1, 230), sophomores Trelle Otto (6-0, 250), Jaden Powell (6-2, 295), Andrew Ciofanni (5-5, 212), freshmen Logan Ross (5-8, 150), Kayse Rejonis (5-10, 260), Logan Youngs (5-10, 215), William Myers (5-10, 190), Steve Bell (5-10, 210), Mason Palenicek (6-0, 220) and Brett Pfalsgraf (5-8, 295).

On the defensive side of the ball, the Big Reds were one of the top units around last season. A very opportunistic group, they forced 31 turnovers, including picking off 20 passes and they scored nine defensive touchdowns.

The Big Reds’ defensive scheme is something that Bonar is keeping close to the vest, but he admitted that the 3-3-5 stack that was utilized last season “will play a role.”

“One of the biggest things we have going for us the fact that no one has any idea what we’ll do (defensively),” Bonar said. “We’re not going to broadcast what we’re doing, but it would be stupid for us to go far from what they did last year. It worked well and the kids executed well.”

The secondary is the ultimate strength where Ray Ray Pettigrew roams. He picked off six passes and took half back for touchdowns. He also logged 45 tackles and broke up five passes en route to All-Ohio accolades on the defensive side of the ball.

Kimbro, who had two pick sixes in one game a season ago, is ticketed for the other corner. Mac Mac Pettigrew will see time there as well.

At safety, Dowling will be there along with a battle between Luke Heatherington, Webb and Frazier.

“I know (colleges) are looking at Ray Ray, but we have a number of defensive backs who can close on the ball well,” Bonar said.

At linebacker, replacing Sechrest is no easy task. It could actually be by committee with the likes of Roth, LaMotte, White and Edgar getting the first look

Campbell and Ney — who are just freshmen — have caught Bonar’s attention during the summer and could “really be in the mix.”

At the outside linebacker post, Lewis, Nauman and Davis are all vying for action.

Up front, Kinder returns after starting at nose guard. Littell, who posted 26 tackles a season ago, is back at a defensive tackle. Nixon is also in the mix.

“I think we’ll be solid on defense,” Bonar said. “We’re fast and can get a lot of guys to the ball. I am really happy with where we are. I want to make sure we’re able to get some rotations going because you don’t want to wait until kids get won out.”

Special teams should also be a strength for the Big Reds. Littell is back as the placekicker. He connected on 36 PATs and a field goal last season.

Jake Heatherington is embarking on his third season as the punter. He earned All-Ohio at the position last season. Dowling will serve as the long snapper.

Bellaire will line up against a schedule that includes a new opponent in each of the first three games. River, Toronto and Harrison Central are all off the schedule and have been replaced by home games with Garaway, Fort Frye and Bishop Tonos from Canada.

“It’s a nice, competitive schedule,” Bonar said. “We’re not afraid to play anyone. I think we’ll be ready each week and we can only win one game at a time. We have to get this for the game ahead and then the next week will come. It’ll be fun. Our guys will be up for it.”

The Big Reds varsity coaching staff includes: Ryan McMahon, Todd Poe, Tuttle, Ben Doyle, Bailey McGrath, Ty Masciareli, Quirk, Clint Lekandous, Matt Porter and Zach Musilli.

The junior high staff includes: Mikey Sechrest, Darrell Daugherty, Clark Scott and John Farrier.