Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Driller killers? Buchanan now eyeing state DI champs, and perhaps another playoff shocker

Buchanan-Clovis outside linebacker and defensive end Bryson Young is helping lead a rejuvenated Bears team into Bakersfield for a Friday, Nov. 21, playoff meeting against the 2013 state champs Bakersfield High (photo contributed).
A 2-8 regular season mark in high school football is normally frowned upon by coaches, players and parents.

But in the case of Buchanan High, the Bears can get away with smiling at their win-loss record.

Because their 2014-15 season hasn't ended yet.

It's all stemming from the No. 11 seeded Bears shaking up the Central Section Division I playoffs on Friday, Nov. 14, as Buchanan knocked off section beast Bullard - the No. 6 seed - with a 35-29 stunner.

Senior quarterback Logan McQuay said despite the eight losses, the Bears never lost trust in one another.

"Our record is obviously not one we expected or are happy with. But it definitely has no effect on our confidence at all," McQuay said. "We are a confident team. The eight losses have definitely made us better based on game experience, learning to take the ups and downs of a game and the mindset it's given us to continue to play each week."

That says a lot for a team that's had numerous of heartbreakers, which would've tested anyone's self-esteem on the football field.

The season began with Buchanan falling short against Edison 13-7 in a contest that saw the Bears winning the line of scrimmage battle and limiting the explosive plays against the loaded Tigers.

What followed were three more regular season loses to Bullard, Clovis West and Clovis North; all decided by a margin of 14 points or fewer. Victories against those opponents and Edison would have given Buchanan a more respectable 6-4 record.

But McQuay said he and the Bears haven't dwelled on what could have been.

"Despite the record, we as a team feel confident that we are capable of competing with anyone in the Central Valley," McQuay said. "And the same can be said for us to now take that momentum from the Bullard win and head into Bakersfield strong."

The No. 3 seeded Bakersfield High Drillers (8-2) will present a different look than what Bullard brought against the Bears. The reigning section and state DI champs will have speed all across the Griffith Stadium grass. Bakersfield prefers to wear down opponents with a triple option attack and getting its running backs - Lameshio Hill and Marcus Bruce - to accelerate through the gaping holes on pitch plays to the outside or through its inside dive runs.

Defensively, the Drillers use 6-foot-1, 285-pound rock Nigel Brooks to emerge as the unmovable force on the line. The nose tackle, who's a national recruit with four scholarship offers, leads the Drillers with seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The Buchanan defense, though, has its rock setting the tone for the unit: Class of 2016 outside linebacker/defensive end prospect Bryson Young.

It was Young who threw Bullard's offensive game plan into dismay with his ability to crash down at the line of scrimmage and halt running plays. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Young added his athletic side on one play, when he scooped up a loose ball and thundered his way to a 36-yard fumble recovery for the touchdown in the six-point victory.

Young, who holds scholarship offers from Colorado State and Fresno State, said the defense sparks the Bears.

"Our defense has improved tremendously, especially over the summer. Our defense is definitely our team weapon," Young said. "Our primary goal is simple: get the ball back. We always set a goal to get three turnovers a game, which is usually achieved or close to it."
Young and the Bear defense have allowed 21 points or less in five games this season. He said he thinks opposing teams will still likely underestimate Buchanan because of its current 3-8 mark.
"I believe that every team we face judges us based on our record," Young said. "But we came into the game (against Bullard) believing we would win and now we're just hungry to play another week."

While Central Valley prep football fans might consider a Buchanan victory over Bakersfield an upset, McQuay wants to downplay that notion. He said his team is expected to compete and hang with the Drillers.

"To us, the only way this is considered an upset is strictly based on records and ranks," McQuay said. "We can play with anyone, expect to win and, when we do win, we hope it's not called an upset." 

Game information: The Buchanan and Bakersfield match up starts at 7 p.m. inside Griffith Stadium. The victorious team will play the Clovis West/Liberty-Bakersfield winner in the DI semifinals on Friday, Nov. 28.


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