From staff reports
Cumberland is ranked 25th in the 2013 NAIA football coaches’ preseason top 25 poll, the national office announced Monday.
The Bulldogs opened preseason camp this week in preparation for the Aug. 29 season-opener at Tennessee Tech.
Cumberland returns 12 starters and 32 letter-winners from last season’s club that finished 8-3. First-year head coach Donnie Suber, who is also starting his sixth year as the team’s defensive coordinator, must replace seven starters on that side of the ball.
Redshirt junior quarterback Reed Gurchiek will start his fourth straight season opener in Cookeville. The former Mt. Juliet High star started as a true freshman in the opener at Austin Peay before suffering a season-ending injury. He has passed for 2,665 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for another 604 yards and nine TDs in 20 career outings for the Bulldogs.
Three-fifths of the offensive line returns as well for Gurchiek – seniors Dalton Burge, Tucker Cathey and AJ Harmon – along with junior running back Blake Deboard.
Defensive backs Grant Jones and Josh Walker will man the corners again for CU, but two new safeties as well as three new linebackers will be asked to fill big shoes from players who graduated last season and combined to play in 188 career contests.
After the season-opener at Tech, Cumberland will head to eighth-ranked University of the Cumberlands and take a week off before a third straight road contest, this one at Belhaven to begin Mid-South Conference West Division play. The Bulldogs will play five home games in six weeks starting Sept. 28 against Bluefield at Nokes-Lasater Field.
Bulldogs add New Jersey grappler
Cumberland wrestling coach Todd Allen announced the signing of Buena, N.J., native Billy Ward to scholarship papers this week for the 2013-14 season.
Ward was a four-year letter-winner for coach Doug Castellari at Buena Regional High School, winning district and region championships all four seasons. He finished in the top 12 at the state meet three times, including a third-place showing as a sophomore.
He was named Outstanding Wrestler at the district and region tournaments as a senior as well as during the 2010 and 2011 Indian Hills Christmas Tournament. Ward posted a school-record 137-19 career mark while at BRHS. He also lettered two years in football and is the son of William and Valerie Ward.
Ward joins Chandler Sartain, Ladigo Williams, Stephen Jackson, Kendall Small, Coby Walker, Niko Kolgaklis, JohnMark Reddick, Dakota Bromley, Dalton Baysinger, Tom Gattinella, Justis Griffith, Corey Daniels, Nate Croley, Christian Varner, Jordan McCoy, Ross Brister and Kyle Delaune in this year’s recruiting class.