Buford's Jameer Cantrell catches a throw by Micah Johnson. Photo by Alicia Payne

The Buford High School ninth-grade football team capped off their season with a 36-0 victory over Marist on Thursday, October 5 at Tom Riden Stadium. The Wolves finished their 2023 season with a perfect 7-0 record.

A trio of running backs were crucial to Buford’s success against Marist. Jameer Cantrell, Justin Hawthorne and Silas Knuckles showed great footwork, agility and speed throughout the game. Knuckles led the trio in rushing yards with 105 yards on seven carries. Cantrell was just behind Knuckles with 94 yards on eight carries, and Hawthorne rushed for 76 yards on six carries. Both Knuckles and Cantrell had a rushing touchdown against the War Eagles.

Silas Knuckles works on avoiding Marist defenders. Photo by Alicia Payne

The running backs also played dual roles as receivers with Knuckles catching a 32-yard pass while Cantrell got a 13-yard reception. Knuckles also added a touchdown on special teams with an impressive 79-yard touchdown return for the Wolves. Joshua Echols also contributed on special teams with a touchdown return of his own.

Echols had a great game in the linebacker position with 12 total tackles against Marist. He also had a sack and two tackles for a loss during the game.

It was clear watching this team play that they possessed a substantial amount of talent, which was well-coached and highly disciplined. Marist struggled the entire game to stop Buford’s running game, and they could not convert on fourth downs. 

Justin Hawthorne looks to get around a Marist defender. Photo by Alicia Payne

The game’s most valuable player is not a single player but a group of players. That group of players was Buford’s offensive line. They did a superb job of blocking Marist and giving the quarterback time to place the ball exactly where it was needed. They opened holes in the War Eagles’ defensive line which the Wolves’ running backs were quick to capitalize on.

Overall, there were so many things that this Buford team did right not only in this game but throughout the season.

When asking ninth-grade head coach, Brandon Gill what the key to his team’s success was, he said it could be attributed to several things.

“First is we’re loaded at the running back position in this class with Jameer Cantrell and Silas Nuckles to name a few, but we have four that can go,” said Gill.

“Two is our offensive line led by Noah Nixon and Payton Walker. They are one of the most disciplined/aggressive groups of freshmen I’ve seen in my four years at Buford High School,” said Gill. “Coach Anthony came back to Buford this year after his seven years of being away and has done an elite job coaching that group!”

In the off-season, the players will continue to hone their skills. Some will participate on the school’s track and field team under head coach Fyrone Davis. The future of Buford football looks bright as this team continues to work hard and improve.

Featured photo: Buford’s Jameer Cantrell catches a pass from quarterback Micah Johnson during their game against Marist on October 5, 2023. Photo by Alicia Payne

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