Knights To Host Clarke County On Friday Night In Playoff Opener

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

BUCKINGHAM – The Buckingham County High School football team will make its fourth consecutive football playoff appearance on Friday night against Clarke County at home at 7 p.m.

The Knights and Eagles, two teams that have become mainstays in the upper division of the Group A, Division 2 playoff picture met in 2010, with BCHS taking a 7-0 victory in the first round of the then Region B, Division 2 Playoffs in Berryville.

“Of all the teams we could've drawn, this is the one I didn't want to see,” said BCHS head coach Craig Gill. “This is a typical Clarke County team that is fundamentally sound, well coached and solid and athletic all around.”

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The biggest news to come out of the week is that Buckingham senior quarterback Cam Johnson, who suffered an injury to his elbow on his non-throwing arm in late September, was not cleared to play in Friday night's game.

“We thought we might get him back, “said Gill, “but they want to give it at least another week. Maybe by then, he will be healthy enough to play. I just hope we're still playing.”

Gill is concerned for good reason. The Eagles run an offense not run by many programs in Southside Virginia.

“Coach [Chris] Parker is an old school coach, and they run the single wing T with a lot of misdirection. The closest we came to facing that offense was against Central, but Clarke uses a little more misdirection. It's hard to find the ball.”

Senior tailback Davey Hardesty was one of five or six players Gill says was on the 2010 squad. Eric Stewart, who was quarterback on that team has moved to the blocking back position. In his place is Sean McDonald, a dual threat quarterback that is not afraid to pull the trigger.

“He can do both,” said Gill. “Clarke likes to run and control the clock, but they can be 50/50. McDonald can throw the ball 50 yards with a flick of his wrist.”

Gill warned his team against looking at Clarke's 6-4 record (3-3 Bull Run), and dismiss it as an easy game.

“I think our film session on Monday got their attention. They lost three games in the Bull Run, all to the champions. They're kind of like Central of Lunenburg was last year. They lost to Amelia, Goochland and us, but wound up making a deep playoff run.

“This is a dangerous team. Their three losses in district were by one score or less, and two of them came in the last 15 seconds of the game. The other loss came against Group AA Warren County, who is also in the playoffs.”

Clarke County's offense is averaging 28.9 points per game, while the defense is giving up 17.1 ppg. The Knights are averaging 43.2 ppg., while allowing 12.4 each outing.

The Eagles won every “should have” game on their schedule. Opponents from their six victories were a combined 9-51, while opponents from their four defeats were 31-9.

Buckingham fared similarly in its regular-season schedule. The combined record of teams from Buckingham's eight victories is 20-52, while the combined record of Goochland and Central of Lunenburg (Buckingham's two losses) is 17-3.

It's fair to say that both teams played well enough to earn a spot in the playoffs, and in Buckingham's case a home game, but neither has claimed a signature victory so far this season.

That will change for one team on Friday night.

“The team that wins this one will have done something,” said Gill. “This is a deep field this year. A lot of good teams will be out by the end of Friday night.”

Buckingham is led by the tailback tandem of Kyree Koonce and Kenneth Johnson. Koonce gained 1,187 yards on the season on 112 carries (10.6 average). He scored 18 touchdowns and converted on three two-point conversions. Koonce also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns (on three opportunities) and three punt returns for a touchdown (seven opportunities).

Kenneth Johnson had 1,161 yards on 138 touches (8.4 average). Playing primarily as the team's short-yardage specialist, he scored 27 touchdowns and converted on five two-point conversion attempts.

Though nowhere nearly as balanced as they have been over the three previous seasons, this year, the Knights have proven that they can throw the ball enough to keep their opponents off-balance. Edwards, is 14-30 passing for 138 yards and an interception in five games.

Jesse Hickman is Buckingham's leading receiver with nine catches for 73 yards, while Austin Seay has five grabs for 73 yards and a touchdown. Kenneth Johnson has three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.

“We've been working on our passing game a little more this week. We know they will try to stack the box against us, and we'll have to have a couple of ways we can loosen them up. Hopefully, between our two backs and a couple of throws, we will be able to move the ball on them.”

Defensively, Buckingham is as stingy as they have been since the Knights become a Group A power. Led by senior linebacker Tariq Bartee. He has 103.5 tackles on the year (80.5 solo), eight tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Devin Smith, who also handles the Knights' punting duties (18 punts for a 37.6 average), has 68.5 tackles (51 solo), 17.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries (two for touchdowns), an interception return for a touchdown and a blocked kick.

Seay (59 tackles, 39.5 solo) has nine tackles for a loss and four sacks. Edwards leads the team with three interceptions.

As a team, Buckingham has 72 tackles for a loss, recorded 25 sacks, recovered all 19 fumbles it has forced, and has 11 interceptions. Five of the Knights' 30 turnovers have been returned for touchdowns.

“I think it will come down to the defenses. Both teams played a whale of a game two years ago. We both could work the ball up and down the field, but once either team got into the red zone, they seemed to shoot themselves in the foot, or the defense would come up with a big play.

“I expect both teams will try to establish the run. They can score quickly, but they also like to go on seven or eight minute drives.”

The Knights will be playing only their fifth home game this season. With that in mind, Gill expects a large crowd.

“We've had some good teams over the last couple of years, but this is only the second home playoff game we've had since 2002. Home playoff games are special. I think we found out this year that even with the expanded playoffs, they're not a given.

“Our guys seem to have gotten it. Nobody is talking about what could possibly happen next week. We've had a good week of practice, but at this level, eliminating – not just limiting – mistakes and homefield advantage are the two biggest factors.”