It took less than a minute for Buchanan to strike big against Clovis West in Friday’s TRAC opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
With Clovis West linebacker Tytus Khajavi bearing down on him, Buchanan quarterback Jayden Mandal lofted a screen pass over Khajavi’s outstretched arms and into the hands of running back Caden Rodgers.
Rodgers went 77 yards untouched to the end zone, scoring an early touchdown in the Bears’ 44-14 win Friday night.
Mandal threw a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josiah Ayon later in the first quarter, then connected with Ayon again for a 19-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
Buchanan built a 21-0 lead with 11:50 left in the second quarter, led by three touchdown passes from the junior quarterback Mandal.
“He’s grown into one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback in the Central Section,” said Buchanan head coach Matt Giordano. “It’s one thing to play as a sophomore and get hit with a fire hose in the playbook last season. Now, he’s had some time to absorb and grow. I’m sure there are passes he wants back, but that’s just the type of competitor he is.”
Buchanan lost one of its biggest two-way playmakers early in the game. Rodgers suffered an injury on the Bears’ second offensive drive and missed the rest of the game.
Junior running back Michael Runnels filled the starting role nicely, scoring twice in the third quarter on touchdown runs from 11 and 29 yards out, while keeping Rodgers in mind.
“When Caden went down, I felt it,” Runnels said. “I had to take over, produce and score all for him, because he was our leader. I had all my trust in him. When I knew that he was hurt, I felt I was hurt.”
Runnels played with a quick, shifty running style that led to missed tackles on both touchdown runs. Giordano mentioned Runnels’ preparation as key to his success in relieving Rodgers.
“Michael is always there at practice and working his tail off every single day,” Giordano said. “Hats off to our coaches, they always make sure Michael knows what he’s doing. He’s a great kid, a great player, and he stepped in and did great things.”
Clovis West committed four turnovers, three of them fumbles, against a Buchanan defense that allowed only 11 points per game entering Friday.
Clovis West scored above that average, thanks to two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Tyler Patrick. Patrick completed touchdown passes to D’ante Benjamin and Marshel Sanders, from seven and 36 yards out, respectively.
Clovis West (3-3, 0-1 TRAC) will play Clovis East next Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Buchanan (5-1, 1-0 TRAC) will host undefeated Central next Thursday, in a matchup between No. 1 and No. 2 in the CalPreps Central Section rankings.
“[Buchanan vs. Central] has turned into a great rivalry,” Giordano said. “It’s good for our league, good for the Central Valley, good for our high schools, and good for our kids.”