Buford off to fast start in soccer

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Jackets 8-0, ranked No. 7 in Class AA

By The Staff



The Buford High School soccer team is off to an 8-0 start and has earned a No. 7 ranking in the Class AA state poll.

Buford High coach John Bundy noted several factors for the Jackets’ success this season.

“We have a great group of players, who represent our school and community well and with pride and passion,” Bundy said. “Last year, we only had three seniors, but all three were high-quality players, so our returners and newcomers have shouldered the challenge and are playing with a lot of confidence, poise, and leadership. You come to expect success when you have a good number of experienced seniors, and our underclassmen have picked up their responsibilities well, so we all expect a great year that extends beyond the second round of the state playoffs.

“It has been so gratifying to see how far our players have come over the years, and their knowledge of the game has increased a great deal.”

The Jackets have eight seniors, led by co-captains center back Donovan Lang, and striker Mikeem McKinney, the BHS MVP last season.

Trey Starnes returns at right back, and Danielle Beard, Parker Melton, and Brandon Gossman are the BHS senior midfielders. Jennifer Knight, James Shehane, occasionally Gossman, and Beard provide solid depth at forward.

Juniors are Andrew “Red” Knight, who plays center mid, and occasionally, forward, and keeper Corey Bracey, who  rejoined the team after two years away, following a broken wrist as the jayvee keeper in 2010.

Returning sophomores include center back Randy Sweisberger, and left back Valerie Jones, who started in those positions as freshmen last season.

Right mid-fielder Cole Keaton returns after a  year away last season.

Keaton was the Jacket JV MVP as an eighth grader. Striker Jesse Stacks has moved from the Junior Jackets squad to the varsity this season. Newcomers in the sophomore class are Kyle James, who provides quality depth on defense, and Christian Ormand, who has played some valuable minutes at various spots in the midfield.

Freshman Wade Lambert rounds out the squad, after stepping up from the JV team the last few seasons. He plays center-mid, and provides depth and experience on the back line.

The jayvee head coach is C.J. Davenport, also a varsity assistant. Former Jacket standout and all-region player Joseph Morris is varsity assistant, who helps coach Davenport with his Junior Jackets squad in practice and matches.

The BHS managers are Freshman Zach Lane, and seventh graders C.J. Joyner and Spencer Horton.

“Our coaches, managers, parents, and school support staff have been very instrumental in the development of our program. We wouldn’t be  where we are without any of them.”

Bundy noted the Jackets play in a tough region.

“Obviously, we play in one of the most competitive regions in Class AA, and currently, three of our teams are ranked in the top 10.

“Indian Land is, of course, the favorite to win the region, as they’re the champions from last year, and made it to the state title match.

“Andrew Jackson is always tough, and has a solid system there, and Cheraw seems to have really improved, based on the start to its soccer season. I’d put our region’s top players and coaches among the best in the state, regardless of classification, and I’ve seen the level of respect rise for our teams in recent years.

“Our team has really grown close, and has started learning to respond to adversity. They understand the importance of dictating the tempo of a match, and are starting to play more to their capabilities, and adhere more to the game plan,” Bundy said. “ When it all comes together, we know we can play with anyone. We expect to get the other team’s best shot, but we also expect to give ours as well.

“When we play to our potential, it’s great to be a part of. I’m also proud of the fact that we’re the only co-ed team on our schedule, and whether male or female, this team plays as one unit, and trusts each other to make the play when needed,” Bundy said. “We’re looking forward to a great season, where winning, confidence-building play fosters a basis for success now and into the future of our program.”