Bucks football teams hits camp, prepare for scrimmages this week

QB Brandon Saunders looks over to the sidelines during 11 on 11 at Bucks preseason football practice earlier in the season. (Hal Nunn | North State Journal)

RAEFORD – The Hoke County High School Bucks football team hit camp last week in preparation for the upcoming high school football season in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

“I feel good about these guys, but we are still developing talent level. The main thing is improving our football IQ and helping them understand what their responsibilities are in terms of playing their positions and techniques,” explained Head Coach George Small. “They are learning a lot of football right now, and it’s exciting, especially on the defensive side of the ball, hearing the guys talk about formations, routes, and stuff like that.”

Small will be entering his fifth year as a coach with the same high school he played for back in the 1970s. After graduating, Small went to North Carolina A&T State University and eventually played professionally with New York Giants and the Calgary Stampede as a defensive tackle. After his professional career, he coached at several colleges and universities before leaving Florida A&M to return home to Hoke County.

Coach Small mentioned that during his first year with the team, he noticed there was not a lot of communication or football knowledge.

“It gives me chills to finally hear these guys talking about football IQ stuff, formations, knowledge, and routes,” said Small. “You can’t help but get excited and finally see what you have been waiting for.”

But Small didn’t want to accept all the credit for his team’s recent development. Giving the nod to the rest of his coaching staff, he proudly announced, “our coaches have really stepped up teaching the guys the game, responsibilities, and football terminology.”

Since the arrival of Small, the Bucks have elevated some coaches from the freshman and junior varsity, including Nate Stewart. In addition to Stewart’s promotion, the team also brought in a new JV coach, Johnathan Locklear, who played college ball at NC State and coached at Wilmington’s Hoggard High School.

Continuity will be in place on the offensive and defensive side of the ball with offensive coordinator Justin Sherrod at the helm and defensive coordinator Antonio Wallace coming back, and long-time running back coach David Patterson will oversee the stable of runners.

Last season, the Bucks finished the year with a 4-7 overall record and a 2-4 conference record, ultimately placing 5th overall in the conference.

The Sandhills Athletic Conference consists of a split conference with 3A/4A schools, including Hoke, Lee County, Pinecrest, Richmond, Scotland, Southern Lee, and Union Pines. Last year, Richmond County went 10-2 overall and ran the conference with a 6-0 record. Pinecrest finished second at 8-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

The Bucks will participate in their first scrimmage on Wednesday, August 10, at Pine Forest before playing in the Cumberland County High School football Jamboree on Friday, August 12. The team will play against Fayetteville’s Jack Britt High School.

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