Bradford football team excited to rejoin the CCC


BRADFORD – The 2017 season is a time of transition for the Bradford football team as the Railroaders rejoin the Cross County Conference under the leadership of new head coach Chris Hawk.

Hawk, a Bethel graduate, comes to Bradford after two seasons at Tri-County North where he served as the junior varsity coach and ran the varsity offense. He also spent three years at Springfield Northwestern where he was the defensive coordinator and spent one season at Beavercreek.

Hawk is Bradford’s fifth head coach in the past five seasons and inherits a program that spent the past two years playing as a conference independent. The Railroaders didn’t have a varsity team in 2014, instead playing a junior varsity slate. Subsequently the CCC kept Bradford out of the league for the past two years, but now the Railroaders rejoin the league along with Fort Loramie and Tri-Village to form a 12-team conference.

“We’re really excited about that,” Hawk said of rejoining the CCC. “There are some changes going on in the CCC with some new people coming in so it’s a great time.”

Bradford, which went 3-7 a year ago, enters this season hoping to be competitive with its CCC brethren.

“We want to be competitive when we come onto the field,” Hawk said. “We want people to know that they were in a dogfight, win, lose or draw.”

The Railroaders enter the season with 27 players, which includes nine seniors. They will rely on a lot of those players to contribute on both offense and defense.

“We are not necessarily a young team,” Hawk said. “We just don’t have a lot of us. So when we have to fill in with these guys, getting them a break and so forth, we need to get the young guys to be able to step it up so we’re not losing as much.”

Bradford has youth at quarterback where it has to replace last year’s starter, Andy Branson, who is out with a knee injury he suffered last basketball season.

Competing to replace Branson as the signal caller are a pair of sophomores, Gavin Trevino and Spencer Fischer.

With a pair of inexperienced quarterbacks in the running for varsity time, Hawk anticipates relaying a lot on the run game.

“That goes back to the point of the young quarterbacks,” he said. “I would love to have a more even (offense), and right now it’s just not a time that we’re ready for that.”

Hunter Penkal will play halfback, Larkin Painter will line up at fullback, and Kyle Mills will play wing. Dialaquan Millhouse will provide depth at each of those positions.

Clay Layman will line up wide at split end for the Railroaders.

The offensive line is less settled. Josh Phillips has emerged as a leader at guard and Hunter Gheen is leading the way at center, but the rest of the line remains up in the air.

“Josh Phillips is our leader at guard on the line,” Hawk said. “Right now he’s probably our rock.”

Phillips also has emerged as a strong player along the defensive line for the Railroaders.

Millhouse will play a linebacker or rover role on defense, Gheen will play linebacker, and Layman will be one of the defensive backs. Beyond that, Hawk is still watching the battles for starting spots play out.

“We’re filling in holes for the other positions,” Hawk said.

Whomever emerges for the Bradford defense, the Railroaders plan to use a lot of styles including 4-4, 3-4 and 5-2 formations.

“A lot of different looks, moving and the intention is to keep moving before the ball gets hiked,” Hawk said. “Get (the offense) thinking, and if they’re thinking they’re not playing at full speed. That’s the hope.”

Helping Hawk lead the Railroaders this season are veteran Bradford coaches Jim Hart, John Cruse and Jim Wysong. They’re joined on the staff this year by newcomers Stetson Peake, Ron Hoelscher and Lowell Byers.

“We have a good mixture of the young guys that I feel the players can relate to, and we have some of the veteran guys that can use their wisdom and show the guys where they need to be,” Hawk said.

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Bradford is rejoining the Cross County Conference after spending the past three seasons outside of the league. is rejoining the Cross County Conference after spending the past three seasons outside of the league. Photo courtesy of Don Selanders

By Kyle Shaner

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Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to

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