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Knights Travel To Appomattox On Friday

BUCKINGHAM – When does a winning team become a winning program? After three straight seasons of nine or more victories, the Buckingham County High School football team may already be there.

The Knights (9-3, 5-2 James River District), who will begin the 2012 campaign on Friday night at Appomattox, enter the season with three consecutive playoff appearances and three straight seasons of nine or more victories.

How about a fourth? It can be argued that the James River District was the toughest league in Group A from top to bottom, if not the entire state. It shouldn't be any different this year, and making things harder for the Knights is the fact they will have to replace five offensive starters and four on defense.

“I think we're a dark horse,” said head coach Craig Gill, who is entering his 38th year of coaching and 17th at Buckingham. “Goochland is the favorite, and Central of Lunenburg didn't lose much. Amelia has gotten used to winning kind of like we have. I think the lower half of the district has improved, and there hasn't been any falloff in the upper half.”

Whether or not that's the truth, a good motivational tactic or a speech worthy of winning a crying towel, remains to be seen. The Knights will miss quarterback Tarian Ayers, who back in January signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Virginia Military Institute this year.

Senior Camre Johnson, who was one of Ayers' favorite targets will move to the quarterback position. With an experienced backfield of Kenneth Johnson (854 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Kyree Koonke (580 yards, eight touchdowns), moving the ball shouldn't be a problem.

Cam Johnson could've easily started at quarterback for a lot of other teams in the area last year. Ayers' downfield arm strength, aided in good part by the fact he was passing to Cam Johnson, (380 yards, 22 catches, eight Touchdowns), gave Buckingham one of the best back-up quarterbacks in the district.

“Cam is an outstanding student,” said Gill. “He's on the student council, he's always been a strong team leader, he has a 4.0 grade point average and he plays three sports. He's an all around good student-athlete, and I feel he's up to the task of leading our team.”

There won't be much drop-off, but there will be some minor changes in offensive scheming.

“We'll probably rely a little more on the run,” said Gill. “We're still going to be pretty balanced between the run and the pass, but maybe not 50/50 like we have been over the last couple of years.”

In last Friday's scrimmage, Cam Johnson appeared to look underneath for open receivers, compared to Ayers' passing game that seemed to be more vertical.

In addition to replacing Cam Johnson at receiver, the Knights also lost Landon Allen, who was a senior in 2011, before transferring to Fuqua School for his final semester and LA Briley, who could stretch the field with his speed at wide out.

Buckingham returns Jesse Hickman at receiver. He caught 15 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He will have an increased role in the BC offense, especially in the underneath routes.

“We're also going to have to get better along our offensive line, and do so quickly,” said Gill. “We have a good mix of returning starters and newcomers, but it takes time for lines to gel. The quicker, the better.”

Buckingham's defense has been a strength for a while. BC will have to replace the secondary, but the line defensive line looked pretty solid against Halifax last week – especially early on.

“We had a great offseason,” said Gill. “The boys worked on their speed and strength. We've had a couple of great off-seasons in the weight room, and that was no different over the summer.”

The marks of a winning program.

“It's going to be tough to stay where we have been,” said Gill. “But the young men know what it takes, and I haven't seen any complacency develop. If we can develop quickly in the places we need to really work on, we should have a good season.”

Buckingham opens its season at Appomattox County High School on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Knights have won three-straight over their traditional season-opening rivals.

“It will be a good test for us. They're another team that's much improved from last year. They'll be ready for us, and we'll have to play a tight game in order to win.”

BUCKINGHAM KNIGHTS

Date Team Time

8/24 @ Appomattox 7

8/31 Open

9/7 @Prince Edward 7

9/14 Fluvanna 7

9/21 @ Amelia* 7

9/28 @ Nottoway* 7

10/5 Randolph-Henry* 7

10/12 @ Central* 7

10/19 Cumberland* 7

10/26 @ Goochland* 7

11/2 Bluestone* 7

* James River District Game