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Prep football: Defense gives Sawyer, No. 4 Bison boost

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Senior quarterback Levi Jordan usually dominates the storylines when the topic of discussion is Buffalo High's football program.

And why not?

Jordan, a four-year starter who became the school's career leader in passing yards (5,002) and touchdown passes (52) last weekend, does a little of everything for the Bison, be it on offense, defense or special teams.

But with much of the attention on Jordan's offensive exploits, the Bison have quietly put together a solid season on the defensive side.

That defense will need to be good again tonight when Buffalo (3-1) hosts Richwood (2-3) in a battle of Class A teams in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Buffalo, ranked No. 4 in the Daily Mail poll, enters the contest 14th in the latest Secondary School Activities Commission ratings, while Richwood sits at 23rd.

"Our defense has played real well," Buffalo Coach Mike Sawyer said. "Coach (Jimmy) Tribble does a good job with our defense. We've had to mix and match with injuries and move people around, but so far it's worked for us.

"Early on you've got to worry about kids missing assignments and maybe not using the right technique, but as you go further into the year that doesn't happen as often, so then you can do more things defensively.

"There have been times that we've given up some yards, but we've stiffened up in the red zone."

Buffalo enters the game allowing just 10 points per game, having given up 20 points in two games, while shutting out its other two opponents.

"We've got good overall team speed," Sawyer said. "We're more athletic than we are big, so we try to move people around. Our base defense is a 4-2-5, but we use multiple defenses for different situations or a certain team.  

"Coach Tribble does a good job adjusting our defense."

The Bison will need that speed to help corral Zach Bennett.

The Richwood quarterback scored a pair of touchdowns in a loss to the Bison last season and has rushed for 375 yards and four scores in the Lumberjacks' last two games, both of which were losses by a combined eight points.

"Richwood is a really good team," Bison senior fullback/ safety Bubba Legg said. "They gave us a challenge last year and their quarterback is back. He's a really good runner. We've got to try to contain him to shut them down. If we can do that, I think we will win this game."

Last season's contest between the Bison and Lumberjacks was relatively close at the half, with Buffalo leading 28-12, before the Bison pulled away for a 53-18 road win.

Legg believes that meeting will help prepare the Bison defense this season.

"Last season's game was close at halftime but they kind of ran out of gas in the second half," Legg said. "(Bennett) ran the ball good against us last year and we hear he's gotten better, so he'll be a challenge. Having seen him last year will help us a lot. We know he's quick and he isn't afraid to put a hit on you.

"He's their main weapon and we've got to try to slow him down."

Sawyer also believes that slowing Bennett will be the key to the game.

"They're kind of going through what we're going through with some injuries and different things like that, but they have a real good quarterback," Sawyer said. "He likes to run and throw, but I think he's more a threat running the ball. They're fairly athletic like us and they're more of a wide-open team as opposed to a power team.   

"They're more of a running spread team than a passing team. Kind of like West Virginia was with Pat White.

"The key will be stopping their quarterback. Their offense revolves around him. He's had a couple of games where he ran for close to 200 yards, so he's dangerous. We just have to play our lanes and have everyone play their positions and not worry about anybody else."

Sawyer mentioned seniors defensive tackle Ryan White, linebacker Braxton Gritt, safety Laythen Good and Legg as standout seniors on the defensive side of the ball, while Legg mentioned freshman defensive tackle Jacob Easton and sophomore linebacker Tony Mundell as surprising newcomers to the Bison starting lineup.  

"Our defense is really strong," Legg said. "We're not really big, but we're really quick and we're not afraid to come up and hit someone either.

"We lost a couple of key players but we've had a couple of young guys step in and fill their spots."


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