"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.
"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].
AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
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