Knights Aim For Third Consecutive District Title…And More
BUCKINGHAM – When people look at Buckingham's 2011 varsity football roster in comparison to 2010, other than the addition of about 10-12 more names, there won't be much of a difference.
One key difference will be the absence of former standout tailback Maurice Taylor, who is currently attempting to walk-on at Virginia Tech.
While he does leave some pretty big shoes to fill, Buckingham has never really had a shortage of good-quality tailbacks. BCHS head coach Craig Gill believes he will be most missed on the other side of the ball.
“I don't think people realize how good of a linebacker he was,” said Gill. “He and Michael Layman, who we're also going to have to replace, were as solid as they could be at linebacker.”
One of the unspoken signs in previews like this for teams that have high expectations, is that the first focus is usually on what a team did lose from the previous season, rather than what's coming back.
And what's coming back for Buckingham has all the potential for great things.
Buckingham (10-2 4-1 JRD in 2010) backed up its 2009 James River District title by splitting the 2010 championship with Amelia County. BC's only loss in the regular-season came to the Raiders. In the playoffs, the Knights advanced to the Region B, Division 2 championship game for the first time since the 2002 season, before losing to Gretna 42-41 in overtime.
Offensively, Tarian Ayers returns at quarterback. The three-year starter was an All-Region B selection last year. He completed 102 of his 198 pass attempts for 1465 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Considering that Taylor accounted for over 2,000 yards on the ground the historically run-first team was rather diverse in its offensive philosophy in 2010.
Expect more of the same this season. Ayers will not have the lanky Caleb White to throw to this season, as White has transferred to Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg.
He will, however, have speedster Antonn Briley, another three-year starter (32 receptions, 541 yards, eight touchdowns), as well as Landon Allen and Camre Johnson as the primary receiving corps.
“Cam [Johnson] is our back-up quarterback, and really the only reason he's not starting is that we have Tarian. A lot of teams would be pleased to have Cam as their starter.”
Behind an experienced offensive line, and with sophomore Kenneth Johnson stepping up to the starting tailback role, the Knights shouldn't see many hick-ups on offense.
Freshman Kyree Koonce will see considerable playing time with Kenneth Johnson in the backfield.
As mentioned before, the question for the Knights will be on the other side of the ball. Buckingham has been rather stingy over the last two seasons on defense. The linebacking corps of Taylor and Layman will be a lot to replace, along with Caderious Bowles, who may not have grabbed the headlines at defensive tackle, but always seemed to be around the play.
That leaves eight returning starters on defense, so while filling those holes will be perhaps more of a task than filling the offensive gaps, like the offense, it's nowhere near a total rebuild.
“I think we're going to be okay on that side of the ball as well. We will have to make sure we keep the big plays to a minimum.
“As a team, overall, we're bigger and stronger physically. We had an excellent offseason, and the guys really put in the work they needed to in the weight room and on the field.”
The last two seasons, Buckingham has seen its playoff hopes dashed in excruciating fashion in overtime losses at Gretna. Much like the 2009 defeat, the 2010 loss has proven to be a good motivator.
The good news is that with the new Group A playoff format, the Knights wouldn't have to face Gretna until the Division 2 State Championship Game, but getting out of the James River District will be much more difficult than it has been in a long time.
After two years in the Group AA Jefferson District, Goochland returns to the James River along with former Southside District members Bluestone and Nottoway.
“With Goochland and Nottoway coming in, and with the changes in Amelia, plus Central should have one of its best teams in years, the James River District will be much improved. Then, you add in Cumberland, which should be motivated and improved and Randolph-Henry, which is always well-coached, this could be the toughest district in the state regardless of classification.”
While it will be more crowded at the top, Buckingham should be right in the mix for both the JRD title and for a run at the Group A, Division 2 crown.
“That's a long way off, and we have a lot of teams that will be focusing on us. We'll have to stay healthy.”
Remaining healthy will be a key, but it won't be as critical as it was over the last two seasons when the Knights had around 25 players on the varsity roster. This year, Buckingham will dress around 37 players.
“We've got to remain healthy. That's a key for every football team from the little ones to the pros, but we've been able to do that the last two seasons, and we've had some good results. We're excited, but we know that we'll have to come ready to play every night.”
Date Team Time
8/26 Appomattox 7
9/9 Prince Edward 7
9/16 @ Fluvanna 7
9/23 Amelia* 7
9/30 Nottoway* 7
10/7 @ Randolph-Henry* 7
10/14 Central* 7
10/21 @ Cumberland* 7
10/28 Goochland* 7
11/4 @ Bluestone* 7
* James River District Game