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Play says plenty

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Buford High’s Cunningham puts action into words

By Robert Howey

Robert Howey
rhowey@thelancasternews.com
BUFORD – With only five returning experienced senior starters, it’s important that Buford High School linebacker-wide receiver Troy Cunningham step up his role this season for the 2013 Jackets’ football team.
From a playing standpoint, BHS coach Mike Wells would be pleased with a duplicate effort from Cunningham on the field.
After all, Cunningham, a three-year starter in his four seasons at BHS and all-region pick last season, earned the team’s Most Improved Player Award last season with 202 tackling points, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“Troy leads by example, but we need him to become more vocal this season and he has,” Wells said. “If you’re loafing out there, he will tell you to get it right.”
Cunningham said experience has helped him in his new role.
“I’m trying to be more vocal,” he said. “I’ve grown into it.”
Buford High assistant coach Jimmy Clyburn, Cunningham’s defensive coach at linebacker, recalls Cunningham coming into his own last season when the Jackets knocked off Chesterfield, 43-39 to help earn a home playoff bid.
“Troy had a lot of good games last season, but that Chesterfield game stands out,” Clyburn said. “He was all over the field, making sacks and tackles for loss. It seems he was always around the football. He came to play that night and was a key to our win.”
Cunningham led Buford’s tackling points with 25 in the Jackets’ win over the Rams with a sack, three tackles for loss and a blocked kick.
“It was a big game,” Cunningham said. “Our coaches told us to come out and give it our all.”
Wells said that’s the kind of effort Cunningham has to have this season.
So far, it’s what he’s produced.
“Troy worked hard over the summer and he’s become a good leader for us,” Wells said. “That work has paid off for him because he’s a step faster and stronger. I think that’s helped him come out of his shell and become a more vocal leader.”
Cunningham, who also plays receiver on offense, prefers the defensive side.
“I like the contact, and defense is also a challenge,” Cunningham said.
“You know your job is to stop the offense. I moved to inside linebacker two years ago and I really like it because of the collisions. You’re right in the middle of the action.
“You just try to dominate the offense and it’s a good feeling to get it done.”
Cunningham said he knows the Jackets are in for a challenge tonight as they open the season with county rival Indian Land in the first of two regular-season meetings.
“It’s going to be a rivalry,” Cunningham said. “You have to stay focused. The key is to be where you’re coached to be. That’s what our coaches always stress.”
For Cunningham, it’s easier done than said.
“Troy is a coaches dream,” Clyburn said. “He’s going to give you all he’s got, and that goes without saying. If you want him to run through a brick wall, he will just have to know how soon. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn all-state honors this season.”

u Contact sports editor                  Robert Howey at (803) 283-1157