GARDEN CITY, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – The Garden City Bearkats compete in one of the toughest districts and regions for six-man football in the state of Texas. District 7-1A Division 1 alone contains three top-25 teams in the state, including the Bearkats, at No. 17.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine predicted Garden City would finish third in their district this season behind Rankin and Borden County. But the stout competition is part of what fuels the Bearkats to compete.

“It’s going to be hard again this year. We’re kind of underdogs so just kind of come in as hard as we can and forget about all the negativity and stuff,” Blain Walts, Garden City runningback, said.

In 2022, the Bearkats battled the injury bug en route to a seven-win season, with their only losses coming to top-10 teams in the state, including their first-round playoff loss to the eventual state champion, Westbrook.

“It’s just the nature of the beast in this region. We’ve got probably about 5 or 6 top-25 teams in this region alone,” Jeff Jones, Garden City head coach, said.

A big key to the Bearkats’ success, they feel, is staying healthy and having younger guys step up.

“The main thing is just staying healthy. The healthiest teams are usually the ones left standing at the end of the year,” Jones said. “We were pretty injury-plagued last year so a bunch of these guys got playing time, it’s just they’re going to have to do it full time now.”

Garden City graduated a big senior class in 2022, including their three-year starting quarterback Logan Siedenburger. Jones said Walton Marshall is having to step up as the Bearkats’ new QB1.

“We have a lot of holes to fill, we lost a big graduating class last year so everything is up for grabs and it’s going to be fun watching them compete for these jobs,” Jones said. “We’ve got some size and we’ve got some speed, so we’re looking forward to putting it all together.”

Garden City’s yearly strength of schedule, which regularly includes state-ranked opponents, has battle-tested the Bearkats who feel optimistic heading into this season.

“Just keep our heads straight, just give it all that we got and leave everything on the field, don’t have any regrets, just make sure we leave it all on the field no matter what,” Alejandro Talamantes, Garden City receiver and defensive tackle, said. “Win or lose I know, they have my back, I have their back so we’re going to be good.”

Week one is no slouch for the Bearkats. Garden City begins its season on the road at 1A Division 2, No. 5-ranked Jayton.

“That’s going to be our main focus right now, but you can go through and circle every week. Our non-district schedule is very tough so we can’t have any lapses week in and week out,” Jones said.

Kickoff of Garden City’s season opener is at 7:30 on Thurs. Aug. 24.