by Scott Boyle
It was a little cool in Monticello last week. Enough so that SportShorts had to put on a sweater. Must be getting close to football time, and right on cue, the 2016 edition of Buckaroo Football is on the field and getting ready to roll.
The Bucks and head coach Art Adair hope to improve on 2015, when the Buckaroos finished third in 1A South.
They lost in the quarterfinals to the Rich Rebels to complete a 5-6 year.
Adair begins his third year at the helm,
“We want to play in the state championship game,” Adair said in a recent interview with SportShorts.
With five returning starters on offense and seven on defense, the Buckaroos should have a head start on that goal, even though the Bucks were picked by coaches to finish third again in 1A South, behind Diamond Ranch and Kanab and are ranked fifth in the preseason.
Last year, part of the Buck’s offensive arsenal was the speed of Andrew Torres and the arm of Brayson Wilcox.
Wilcox, with 13 touchdown passes and 64 completions on 142 attempts for 909 yards, is back for his junior season at quarterback. He did have some minor knee surgery this summer.
“He has grown a little and is a lot stronger” marvels Adair. “He is a leader in the weight room and on the field and has spent all summer with the offensive coordinator. He knows our playbook as well as anyone and is way coachable.”
Torres, a first team All-stater is gone, taking with him his speed, toughness, six receiving TDs and more rushing TDs.
The Bucks hope to replace Torres with senior Talon Black and junior Max Hedglin.
Black, who handled the kicking chores for the Buckaroos last year with one field goal and 19 extra points while also playing some receiver, impressed the coaches the last three or four games last year at receiver. This positive impression continued this summer in 7-on-7.
“He’ll go after a ball, is tough-nosed, wants the ball and is driven to be the best,” said Adair. “With him, we’ll get a lot of that toughness that Andrew brought to us. He will be our number one guy to look at.”
Adair added, “The speed part, I think, we’ll find in Max.”
Indeed, the Bucks hope to get Hedglin open on some speed routes and fly him down the field where he can get open and be dangerous.
Last season, the offensive workhorse for the Bucks was Thomas Anderson, who was the second leading rusher in 1A as a sophomore with 185 carries for 811 yards, averaging 74 yards per game.
But Anderson missed some playing time with injuries too, so the Bucks plan to utilize Shandon Bradford more. Bradford has had a good summer in the weight room and is built to take some hits.
The coaches hope to use Bradford to soften up the defense and then use Anderson with quick hits.
“Thomas is a great back,” maintains Adair. “You’ve gotta give that kid the ball.”
Last year, the Bucks had a problem with running backs outrunning the linemen on runs to the outside. With increased quickness on the line this year, the Bucks should be able to get some blocking to get outside much better. And with Bradford’s power, defenses are going to have to account for both players.
So how do the Bucks rebuild an offensive line that graduated two and lost two to injury? Tanner Holt is out with back issues and Parker Knudsen is gone for the season with knee surgery.
“Justin Cecil,” offers offensive coordinator Josh Keyes.
Cecil, a junior, looks to take over at center for Knudsen and senior.
“We will be small on the line,” acknowledges Adair, “If we average 160 [pounds] on the line, we’ll be lucky.”
Senior Spencer Squires will be the biggest and only returning starter on the line for the Bucks. Squires is pushing 155 pounds as practice opens.
For the other three linemen spots, the coaches are looking to seniors Tacovi Warren and Clayton Westcott, who joined the team for the first time this year. Sophomores Gage Wilcox and Chance Deeter are also likely to man the open spots.
According to coaches, Wilcox had a great summer in the weight room, “exceeding everybody’s expectations.” Even so, the offensive line will be small, young and inexperienced.
“It will be an adventure,” Adair cautioned. “We may not be a power, down the middle team this year,” he continues, “but sometimes little lines can surprise you.”
Defensively, the Bucks bring back senior first team all-stater Paul DeAnda, who led 1A in tackles last season with 106. DeAnda, after an intense summer in the weight room, has put on about 20 pounds.
“He’s just a beast,” marvels Adair.
Adair maintains DeAnda is the best linebacker in 1A. The Bucks are going to run a 3-5 defense this year, which sets DeAnda up to roam the field and hopefully be totally disruptive in the backfield of the opponents.
He’ll be joined by Bradford and Anderson at linebackers and defensive ends Brayson and Gage Wilcox.
The Bucks will miss Parker Knudsen and his 1A-leading five sacks last season. But with the Wilcox brothers, of whom Brayson was the third leading 1A tackler last season with 78, Anderson (68), and Bradford and Black back at safety, the defense looks to be just fine.
With six home games, you’ll get to see the Bucks often this season. The first four games of the year are at home. The Bucks open with Grand on August 19, followed by Wayne on September 2, Rich on the 9th, and Duchesne on the 16th.
Come and cheer on the 2016 Monticello Buckaroos. See you at the games!