Knights' Quick Strikes Stymie Cumberland

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BUCKINGHAM – There is probably no team in the area that starts a game as well as the Buckingham County High School football team, so it wasn't a surprise when the Knights were first to get on the board against Cumberland in the Battle of Route 60. It wasn't a surprise that they ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. What was a surprise, was how fast the Knights pretty much ended the game. Four minutes in, Buckingham was about halfway to its point total for the night in a 47-8 victory over the Dukes.

Buckingham had a 20-0 lead before the Knights' offense first stepped on the field. By the time the game was over, Buckingham had scored touchdowns every possible way – rushing, passing, kickoff return, punt return, fumble recovery and return and interception return.

“I've been around football for a long time, and I'm not sure I've seen a team score three times before the offense hits the field,” said BCHS head coach Craig Gill. “It shows how focused our young men were all week. We had a great game plan and a great week of preparation. We were able to execute right out of the gate.”

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“You can't spot a team 21 points before your defense takes the field and expect to win,” said CHS head coach David Sullivan. “Once again, we were not ready at the start. Buckingham deserves the hype. They're probably the best team we've seen in terms of how they get to the ball.”

Koonce returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for the Knights' first touchdown. Defensive specialist Devin Smith scored the first of his two touchdowns on the evening seconds later. He scooped up a fumble and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown at the 11:30 mark.

Buckingham went up 21-0 on a 51-yard punt return by Koonce with 8:58 still to play in the first quarter.

“The plan was to defer if we won the toss, but to not kick to their athletes on either punts or kickoffs,” said Sullivan. “That didn't happen, and we corrected that, but by the time we did, the game was out of hand.”

The Knights completed their first offensive drive with a 18-yard touchdown run by Koonce just past the midway mark of the first quarter. With four minutes remaining in the opening quarter Smith scored his second touchdown on a 30-yard interception return to put the Knights ahead 34-0. A touchdown run by Kenneth Johnson with 57.3 seconds remaining in the quarter put BCHS ahead 40-0.

Things finally slowed down for the Dukes, but they were still unable to get much going against the BCHS defense. Buckingham closed out its scoring for the evening with 2:20 remaining in the half. Leon Ragland, who was starting in place of John Edwards at quarterback completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Austin Seay to put the Knights up 47-0 at the break.

Buckingham substituted liberally in the second half. Cumberland was better able to move the ball, but was still out of sync, especially after starting quarterback EJ Rose was injured.

Senior Bo Winbush moved from his new receiver position back to his old one behind center. In a sense, Cumberland was down two players, its starting quarterback and its best receiver.

Playing against a running clock, the Dukes were able to get on the board in the fourth quarter when Dione Booker broke through for a 66-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left to play. Winbush successfully scored on a two-point conversion to cap the Dukes' lone scoring drive.

“It all goes back to how we started the game,” said Gill. “I've coached in ballgames where the final score was 3-2 or 8-5, but I've never seen something like this.”

Johnson led the Knights in rushing with 83 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He also had a two-point conversion on Koonce's kickoff return. Koonce rushed seven times for 77 yards and scored a touchdown, but did most of his damage with the two kick returns.

Ragland was 2-3 passing with his biggest completion being the 28-yard touchdown pass to Seay.

Defensively, Buckingham was led by Seay, who had seven tackles and a sack, while Ayers had four tackles and three sacks. Smith had only four tackles to go along with his two touchdowns, but two were for a loss. Tariq Bartee had four tackles, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.

“Tariq had one of those great games that really doesn't show up in a box score,” said Gill. “I'm just really proud of the defense all the way around. They set the tone early and made this a very atypical Battle of Route 60.

Booker had six rushes for 76 yards and the touchdown, while Winbush had five rushes for 41 yards.

Cumberland will return home to face Amelia on Friday night in a game that can affect playoff seeding for both teams.

“It's wild to me that we can still be in the hunt for a playoff, but we'll take advantage of it if we can get it,” said Sullivan. “If we can pick off Amelia, we can go into the Nottoway game with some confidence, and who knows from there.”

Buckingham travels to Goochland. A victory by the Knights can force a three-way tie for the district championship. If the Bulldogs win, they will clinch the district outright. If Buckingham wins and Nottoway beats Central, the Knights will win the district outright with a victory over Bluestone next week.

“Every week, we treat the next game like it's the biggest one of the year,” said Gill. “This one is truly that. Goochland does everything well. They had two early losses to Monticello and Fork Union. There is no sin in losses to either of those teams, and they're playing at their best right now.

“We were a little tight when we went to Central, and I think that was my fault. I was tight all week, and I think it transferred to the team. We're going to be loose this week, and go up there and play loose. Last year's game was a knock-down, drag-out fight. A great game that we lost in the final minute. I hope for a different result, but I expect everything else to be the same.”