Buchanan defense shuts out Bullard, Milton scores three TDs

Linebacker Michael Mertens of Buchanan was a major factor in the Bears’ 31-0 shutout of Bullard. Buchanan is ranked No. 28 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. COURTESY OF AN EYE FOR IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s no secret Buchanan trots out explosive offensive weapons all over the field, including one of the top running backs in the nation in Kendall Milton.

But, for Central Section opponents, there’s more heaps of bad news – they have a stout defense too.

After torching Paso Robles 56-17 last week that ended with a running clock, the Bears methodically used a tough-minded ground force and a swarming, hard-nosed defense in shutting out Bullard 31-0 under pleasant conditions at Ratcliffe Stadium to move to 2-0 on the season.

Of notice for the Bears were linebackers Blake Armas, Steven Scheidt and Michael Mertens, flying around the field and taking the Knights head-on.

“When you get a shutout against a team as talented as Bullard our guys should be happy,” Buchanan coach Matt Giordano said. “We did a lot of good things on defense.”

There’s also athletic ballhawks on defense who double on offense: Jalen Cropper, Brock Jones and Tanner Blount.

However, along with his always-thankful praise there’s always a condition with Giordano, a stickler for defensive detail and a Buchanan 2000 grad who played eight years in the NFL as a safety: “But they have to know there’s still a lot to learn.”

Be as it may, Buchanan frustrated Bullard all night; thwarting a fake-punt, recovering a fumble, recording two sacks with one interception, all the while containing standout running back Marcus Fulcher, who rushed for 1,756 yards and 20 touchdowns last year as a junior.

In fact, Bullard did not sniff the red zone all game, let alone even attempt a field goal.

Buchanan scored and its opening drive of the game, culminated by Milton’s 14-yard touchdown run. But, they sputtered all the way to halftime, save for a 44-yard field goal by standout kicker Race Mahlum in the second quarter.

The second half usually rides on adjustments and Buchanan turned it up a notch when Milton scored on a 1-yard plunge and a 16-yard power run up the middle that sealed the game 31-0 with six minutes left in the game.

Milton unofficially finished with 130 yards on 17 carries.

Levi Willems added an electrifying 44-yard scamper late in the third quarter: “My O-line just pancaked their D-line so props to them. I just had to make a couple of cuts and all I saw was green field.”

With Willems and Blount spelling relief for the Milton, No. 2 nationally ranked running back in the 2020 class, the Bears backfield forms a mighty trio.

Last week, Willems ran 10 times for 85 yards with a touchdown and Blount rushed for two touchdowns.

“We are very blessed to have three talented backs,” Giordano said. “There’s only one football but the great thing about these guys is that they cheer on the other guys. We know if we are going to be competitive in the Valley we need more than one running back.”

Cal-Hi Sports’ No. 28 team will certainly need an all-systems-go mentality with state heavyweights De La Salle (Sept. 21 at Veterans Memorial Stadium) and TRAC foe Central (Sept. 28) on the horizon, in addition to Liberty-Bakersfield on Sept. 9.

“Our defense was good but had a few stumbles with getting lined up but coach corrected it on the bench,“ Blount said. “With those games down the road we are going to need discipline.”

Giordano adds: “Everyone is going to give us their best shot and we are going to give them our best shot.”

Paul Meadors
Paul Meadors is a man of many talents. He is a elementary school teacher, Junior High athletic director, and basketball coach in Traver, CA, in addition to serving as the Sports Editor for the Clovis Roundup. He is also the author of the humorous book “Letters to eBay,” and he has recorded a piano album of his own compositions titled “Surviving the Storm.” He lives in Fresno with wife Lori and daughters Georgie, Alex and Ruthie.