Previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California: No. 22 Buchanan Bears

SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the Buchanan Bears of the CIF Central Section, the No. 22 team in our countdown.

MORE: PRESEASON TOP 50 PREVIEWS

BUCHANAN TEAM PAGE | 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

BUCHANAN HEAD COACH

Matt Giordano, 5th season (37-14)

2019 AT A GLANCE

  • 10-3 record
  • 4-1 in Tri-River League (2nd)
  • Lost to Central (Fresno) 28-21 in the Central Section Division 1 Championship

KEY DEPARTURES

  • Kendall Milton – RB
  • CJ Jones – DB
  • Matt Merritt – DL
  • Brandon Hernandez – WR/DB

BUCHANAN’S 2021 SCHEDULE

  • Jan. 7 vs. Kingsburg – 6:30PM – Non League
  • Jan. 15 at Bullard – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Jan. 22 vs. Golden West – 6:30PM – Non League
  • Jan. 29 at Liberty – 7:30PM – Non League
  • Feb. 11 vs. Edison – 6:30PM – Non League
  • Feb. 19 at Clovis West – 6:30PM – League
  • Feb. 26 at Central – 6:30PM – League
  • Mar. 5 vs. Clovis – 6:30PM – League
  • Mar. 12 Clovis North – 6:30PM – League
  • Mar. 19 at Clovis East – 6:30PM – League

RETURNING STARTERS

  • 6 on offense
  • 6 on defense

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Darrien Gaines (Senior-WR) (6-1, 170)

Coach Giordano: “Darrien is fast, versatile and can go up and high point the ball very well. Once the ball is in his hands he is very dangerous. Everybody on defense will need to know where he is before the ball is snapped. He is arguably the best WR in our section.”

Hayden Petersen (Senior-WR/DB) (6-0, 185)

Coach Giordano: “Hayden is a missile to the football. Tremendous athlete. By far one of the best safeties and players in our section.”

Cade Uehling (Senior-LB/RB) (6-0, 200)

Coach Giordano: “Cade is a play maker. Had a huge role on both offense and defense last season. Makes impactful plays every game. Extremely fun to watch every Friday night.”

Stephen Shelley (Senior-WR/DB) (5-9, 160)

Coach Giordano: “Stephen is electric with the ball in his hands. Shouldn’t be a two way starter — SHOULD be a two way star.”

Camryn Bracha (Senior-DB) (5-11, 175)

Coach Giordano: “Ball hawk. In our section championship game Camryn recorded over 20 total tackles. Great leader and will prove that he is one of the best safeties in our section before the season is over.”

Gavin Nelson (Junior-TE/DE) (6-3, 230)

Coach Giordano: “Best TE in our section. Tough and physical and has a motor that does not turn off. Great leader and will have state recognition by the end of the season.”

Caden Rodgers (Junior-LB/RB) (6-0, 220)

Coach Giordano: “Downhill runner. Going to be a great asset at RB and a sideline to sideline machine on defense.”

Ian Kirby (Junior-QB) (6-1, 170)

Coach Giordano: “Ian came in at the middle of last season and didn’t look back. He’s extremely smart and athletic. Ian is on track to do amazing things this season.”

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON BUCHANAN FOOTBALL

COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Giordano shares how COVID-19 has impacted Buchanan football over the past few months:

“Each member of this team has amazing perseverance and resiliency. This is one of the most resilient teams I’ve coached, if not the most. They’ve just been able to roll with everything and not complain. You know they want to play but they haven’t complained one bit and they’ve just been saying ‘yes coach’ and they come to work and show up to Zooms and if we’re able to get in the weight room they show up for that too.”

BEST-CASE SCENARIO FOR BUCHANAN

If the Bears can remain healthy, a berth in the Central Section Championship game seems within reach.

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

Buchanan brings back a quarterback in Ian Kirby that picked up valuable experience last season and a group that is hungry following a 28-21 defeat to Central (Fresno) in last season’s Division 1 Championship game.

Competition in the Central Section will be very strong this season with Central (Fresno), Liberty (Bakersfield), San Joaquin Memorial, Bullard, and Clovis all with big expectations.

COACH SAID

“This team has very high expectations! This team has been amazing in their work ethic and dedication to the theme of taking one day, one week at a time. They have worked extremely hard on the field and in the weight room. The cohesiveness has been outstanding. Our players have been attentive and focused on learning our schemes and team lessons through our Zoom meetings as well.”

“What I am most proud of is their determination and their resiliency to work in cooperation with our ever changing guidelines and restrictions in our state regarding COVID. With the mindset of sticking together and taking one week at a time and going 1-0 every week, everything else will take care of itself when it comes to league and section championships.”

– Matt Giordano

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