Boyd Buchanan defense may face toughest test yet in region clash with Chattanooga Christian

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Boyd Buchanan's Brayden Standefer (82) closes in on Brainerd's Michael Brooks as he carries the ball on Aug. 25 during the second week of the season.

"Outstanding" is the best word to describe Boyd Buchanan's defense through the first half of the 2023 regular season.

Despite having only two of 11 starters on that side of the ball who weigh in at more than 200 pounds, the Buccaneers have proven suffocating, posting four shutouts through a 5-0 start, and seniors Kaiden Bates, Asher Keck, Alto Moore and Jaylon Sanderfer have led the effort to put heavy pressure on quarterbacks, helping set up 10 interceptions by a plethora of defenders.

The Bucs have 14 takeaways in their four shutouts, and they have turned the ball over only once through five games while outscoring Chattanooga Prep, Brainerd, Christian Academy of Knoxville, North Cobb Christian and Silverdale Baptist a combined 196-8. With an average of just 1.5 points allowed per game, Boyd Buchanan ranks second statewide in scoring defense.

The defensive prowess is another sign of progress under head coach Gary Rankin, the all-time wins leader in Tennessee high school football who is in his second year at the Chattanooga private school. Last fall, the Bucs went 7-4 after posting losing records in back-to-back seasons and four of the previous five; right now they're ranked fourth in TSSAA Division II-AA and seem built to compete for a state title.

"There's a couple of different things that go into our success defensively so far," said Rankin, whose 17 state titles are another TSSAA record. "As a head coach, I stress defense and I always have. Our coaches are doing a great job on the defensive side, and we haven't given anybody a short field because of turnovers ourselves. We also feel like we have some pretty decent players on defense."

At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Moore is the big man up front, a college prospect who always has been a problem for opposing lines. In the season opener and his first game after transferring from Georgia's Calhoun, he had 11 tackles (including three for loss, with one of those a sack) in a 52-0 home win over Chatt Prep.

Bates (5-10, 180), meanwhile, is a two-sport standout who has brought some of his takedown skills from the wrestling mat to the football field. He won 40 matches last winter, finished third individually in Division II and helped the Bucs win their first state duals title.

"Kaiden has done a great job for us," Rankin said. "We are not real big on defense — we are pretty small, actually. However, we swarm to the ball and tackle pretty well and understand our schemes. Kaiden has certainly made a lot of big plays for us."

After generating a buzz with their 4-0 start last season, the Bucs lost two of their next three games to region opponents Silverdale Baptist and Chattanooga Christian School. Boyd Buchanan (5-0, 2-0 DII-AA East) beat the Seahawks 48-0 last week and will have the chance to avenge its 33-16 road loss to CCS when the Chargers (3-2, 2-1) visit Friday night.

CCS is expected to have star running back Da'Rell Brown after he missed last week's region loss at undefeated Knoxville Webb.

"We have 10 interceptions through five games, and that is pretty outstanding," Rankin said. "Hopefully we can add to that Friday night. Our nine seniors have done a good job leading us, and we have adjusted to the things that fit us and our skill sets the best."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at [email protected].

  photo  Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ Boyd Buchanan's Alto Moore hits Brainerd's Martavious Smith (13), nearly forcing an interception during an Aug. 25 game at Brainerd.



Friday, Sept. 22

Games begin at 7:30 unless noted


Brentwood Academy at Baylor

Bledsoe County at Tellico Plains

Chattanooga Christian at Boyd Buchanan

Chattanooga Prep at East Ridge

Coalfield at Sequatchie County, 8

Copper Basin at Whitwell, 8

East Hamilton at Howard

Grace Academy at Zion Christian

Grundy County at Sale Creek

Heritage (Ga.) at Bradley Central

Hixson at Soddy-Daisy

Marion County at Brainerd

Montgomery Bell Academy at McCallie

Meigs County at Central

Ooltewah at McMinn County

Red Bank at Cleveland

Rhea County at Walker Valley

Signal Mountain at Lookout Valley

Silverdale Baptist at Notre Dame

South Pittsburg at North Jackson (Ala.), 8

Sweetwater at Tyner


Adairsville at Ringgold

Bremen at Ridgeland

Cedartown at Dalton

Chattooga at Pepperell

Christian Heritage at St. Francis

Dade County at Darlington

Druid Hills at Southeast Whitfield

Gordon Central at Fannin County

Gordon Lee at LaFayette

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Coahulla Creek

Model at Murray County

North Murray at Haralson County