Even before junior star running back Kendall Milton touched the football, Buchanan’s deep set of skills players sliced, diced and racked up a 27-0 first quarter lead over Paso Robles in the season opener en route to a 56-17 thrashing at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Six different Bears scored touchdowns for Cal-Hi Sports No. 29 ranked team, including two hook ups from sophomore quarterback DJ Stevenson to senior transfer Jalen Cropper, the first a screen pass where Cropper slipped past a defender and went untouched down the sideline for 77 yards on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
Stevenson, who also scored on a 3-yard run with 39 seconds left in the first quarter in his first varsity football game, is the son of 13-year NBA player DeShawn Stevenson, the former Washington Union standout.
Milton, the No. 2 ranked running back in the class of 2020, was slowed in practice with a slight ankle injury and entered the game early in the second quarter yet ripped off a 58-yard touchdown run with 3:08 left in the half to make the score 42-3.
The 6-foot-2, 205 pounder finished with five carries for 88 yards.
“We’re blessed with some skilled athletes this year and our job is to get them the ball and watch them go,” Buchanan coach Matt Giordano said. “We are thankful to have the athletes that we have but you’re going to find out there’s a couple more. It should be a fun year to play offense for Buchanan.”
Milton’s 2018 season did have an interesting yet humorous start – when he finally entered the game the referees spotted he was wearing illegal cleats and wouldn’t let him enter the huddle.
Milton had to hop into a golf cart with Buchanan Athletic Director James Gambrell to retrieve legal cleats from his car in the parking lot.
“That’s a long run to the car,” Milton said with a laugh.
“We’ve been grinding since March everyday, it was good to be able to get back out here and get some work with the team.”
Tanner Blount, a senior who also plays safety, scored two rushing touchdowns – a 16-yarder in the opening quarter where he hurdled a defender into the end zone and a 5-yard run with 1:01 left in the third quarter.
Senior Levi Willems scored on a 3-yard run to open up the scoring in the second half and senior two-way standout Brock Jones, a high level baseball recruit who spent most of his summer on the baseball circuit, scored on a 9-yard fly sweep in the first quarter.
“I flipped a switch and now I can focus on football and work on my craft,” said Jones, who has dual offers from Arizona State and Fresno State. “It’s my senior year and one last round with the boys. We started off well and we are looking forward to a good season.”
Paso Robles is one of 13 Central Coast teams who will be entering the Central Section playoffs in 2018, and one of four who will play in the Division I bracket.
But for Buchanan and Giordano, who went 10-3 last year and lost in the D-I championship game 30-7 to Central, there’s certainly a lot of season left.
“We did some good things tonight but [we have] a lot of things to clean up. I mean it’s Game 1 – to act like we got it down we’d been lying to ourselves,” said Giordano, a 2000 Buchanan grad who won a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007. “There’s a lot of little details, some major things we need to fix. Bullard is going to be a great test next week.”
Next up for the Bears are the Bullard Knights at Ratcliffe Stadium on Aug. 24 for a 7:30 p.m. scheduled kickoff.