BISMARCK: Lions seek return to playoffs

Classification: 5-3A
Coach: Jeff McBride
Last Season: 3-8 (3-4)

With a trip to the 3A playoffs on the line in the final conference game of the season, Bismarck capitalized on the opportunity, defeating rival Centerpoint, 43-22, to earn its second consecutive playoff appearance.

Looking ahead to 2012, the strength of the 5-3A may provide a challenge to the Lions’ hunt for a third-straight berth.

“Anytime you have Jessieville, Glen Rose and Fountain Lake in your conference, you have a tough one,” Coach Jeff McBride said. “Benton Harmony Grove is going to be much improved, and Centerpoint always gives us trouble.”

Coach Jason Hathcock steps in as offensive coordinator and looks to improve the Lions’ spread attack.

“Coach Hathcock will bring a new approach to the offense that should really fit our abilities,” McBride said.

Dual-threat quarterback Trace Pee (6-2, 230) returns in 2012. The all-conference senior has worked on improving his strength and mechanics during the offseason.

“Trace had a great season last year, but I expect him to have an exceptional season this year,” McBride said. “He has a heart for the game.”

Junior Justin Taylor (5-10, 155) should start at running back but may share carries with top newcomer, sophomore Ryan Looper (6-1, 185). Senior Aspen Yarbrough (5-9, 250) will provide a towering presence at right guard.

The Lions will return to a 4-3 defensive scheme this season after trying out a 4-2 defense in 2011.

“We plan on being very simple, but better technicians,” McBride said.

Junior Shelby Orr (5-11, 195) and senior Dusty Yarbrough (5-11, 210) should both see significant playing time on the defensive line. Junior Bryce Yarbrough (5-11, 180) is experienced at linebacker. Pee shifts to middle linebacker in red zone situations.