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Questions Aplenty For Knights Entering 2010 Season

BUCKINGHAM – The Buckingham County High School football team couldn't have had a better regular-season last year if it tried. The Knights finished 10-0 for only the second time in school history, and captured the James River District title.

But if the Knights want to come close to equalling that success, it will have to do so without the services of 16 graduated seniors.

Still, given those losses, the Knights still return a lot of proven athletes at the skill positions.

“We'll have a lot of spots to fill with the graduation of 16 seniors,” said BCHS head coach Craig Gill, who will begin his 15th season at Buckingham. “But it's not like we're starting over from scratch.”

Most importantly, the Knights return senior tailback Maurice Taylor. Taylor rushed for over 1800 yards and 24 touchdowns, and was named the James River District's Player of the Year.

He'll be receiving handoffs from junior quarterback Tarian Ayers, a two-year starter.

In all, the Knights return six starters on offense and six on defense. That sounds pretty good, until one takes into account that five of them play on both units.

“Depth is going to be an issue for us,” said Gill. “Our sophomores and juniors must fill in the gaps. We need our young players to get up to speed quickly and we'll have to avoid injuries.”

Buckingham will return speedy receivers Antonn Briley and Jamese Payne at receiver, in addition to 6-5 junior Caleb White.

On the lines, center Adam Morris returns which will help out in quarterback/center exchanges when the Knights utilize their power sets or go into the spread.

“We'll have to build our offensive lines, but we do return enough that we have something to build around.”

Senior All-District offensive tackle Michael Layman will return to the line, additionally he will move to linebacker.

Defensively, Buckingham will have to replace the linebacking tandem of Taylor Boyers (who also caught several key passes at tight end) and Kevin Jamerson (who was also a stabilizing force at full back).

Junior Jackson Bryant returns on the defensive line.

“He's one of the toughest players on the team,” said Gill. “We'll have to build around him.”

With only 29 players on the roster, there will be no room for error or injuries. The Knights will be tested by a solid non-district schedule.

“We have to avoid injuries,” said Gill, noting that a team with a roster of 50 says the same thing, but it becomes even more crucial when the roster gets below 30 players. “Right now we have so many players going both ways, so our reserves will have to step in and be ready to play when they're called upon to do so.”

Buckingham will dress up five seniors, 14 juniors and eight sophomores, in addition to freshman tailback Kenneth Johnson, who was a standout on the junior varsity last season. Over the years, Buckingham has shown that it is not afraid to put a freshman into a key role, and expect him to receive a lot of playing time, otherwise, there would be no reason to play him up on the varsity.

Despite their losses, Buckingham should be right in the mix of things again in the James River District.

“It's going to be wide-open,” said Gill. “Everyone has improved. Amelia returns 17 or 18 starters, and Cumberland has speed and outstanding personnel. Central returns its entire offense, and they pushed us in the final game of the regular-season last year. Randolph-Henry has a very strong line.

“It's going to be a competitive district, and hopefully we can use our non-district schedule to build some experience and depth. If we can avoid injury, we should be in the mix at the end.”

Buckingham @ Appomattox

Friday, 7 p.m. Bragg Stadium

Radio: WFLO 95.7 FM

Buckingham has not lost a regular-season game since a 14-7 loss to Goochland on October, 24, 2008. That's 12-straight victories. To make it 13, the Knights will have to go into the den of one of their fiercest non-district rivals, Appomattox.

The Knights used a little trickery in their 20-13 victory over the Raiders last season. The win set the tone for the Knights who went on to their first undefeated campaign since the 1975 season. Buckingham lost a hard-fought 28-22 decision to Gretna in the first round of the Region B, Division 2 playoffs.

Appomattox, meanwhile, shook off the early loss to go on to an 8-2 regular-season mark. The Raiders advanced to the Region B, Division 2 championship game where they lost to Gretna 28-13.

Both teams suffered heavy losses to graduation, so it's safe to say Friday night's game will be just as competitive as the one a year ago.

Will the game come down to another trick play? Maybe. But one thing is for certain, even though it's just August 27, this one will again have a bearing on the Region B, Division 2 playoff picture.