2022 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Cedar Bluff utilizing Leek’s talent at QB

Cedar Bluff’s Bucky Leek prepares to throw a pass at football practice on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

CEDAR BLUFF – Every football team has that one guy it rallies around. For the Cedar Bluff Tigers, that guy is senior all-purpose threat Bucky Leek.

Offense, defense, special teams, Leek is threat to make a big play every time he touches the football. But this season, the Cedar Bluff coaches have added a new wrinkle to the versatile Leek’s arsenal.

They’re lining him up at quarterback in hopes of accounting for the production left by another multi-talented player, Jacob Burleson.

“He’s got a lot of athleticism. He’s got a lot of charisma. The kids rally around him. We are kind of where he takes us,” Cedar Bluff coach Alan Beckett said. “He brings a lot of good things to us. It’s just a different dynamic. We’ve just got to do things that will fit his skills. He can make things happen with his feet and he throws the ball really well.”
“I love having the ball in my hands,” Leek said. “A lot of people look to the quarterback to change the game. I feel like I can do that for us this year.”

Among Leek’s targets this season are seniors Aden Green, Austin Richardson, junior Eli McFry and sophomore Byrann Kinsey. Senior Kade Browning will be in the backfield.

“Bucky knows a lot about the game,” Browning said. “He’s been helping me line up and stuff. It’s been easier with me and him in the backfield. We’ve known each other for so long it just kind of gels.”

Leek said “there’s some pressure” being in charge of the offense on the field.

“The quarterback touches the ball every series, but I feel good about it,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to do really good this year.”

Speaking of feeling good, Beckett said he’s a little more comfortable beginning his second year with the Tigers. He was hired at the end of May in 2021 and spent all of last summer getting to know the Tiger players and their strengths. This season, he knows more of what the Tigers have. They return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

“It has been a little bit of a struggle in some ways, but we’ve got a good core,” Beckett said. “We’ve got some moving parts we’ve got to work on, but we’ve got some people who are really solid players. It’s all out in front of us. It’s how we motivate to do (things) on the daily. That comes back to us as coaches.”

For the Tigers, it starts with their six seniors: Leek, Green, Richardson, Browning, lineman Dylan Kinard, and offensive lineman/linebacker Hagen Stallings. Beckett said they are “a talented group.”

“Dylan Kinard has gotten with a nutritionist. He’s lost a bunch of weight and done some camps. He’s got a high football IQ. He really loves the game. He’s got a kid’s heart in how much he loves it. That’s kind of what you want.

“Kade Browning is extremely talented. I don’t know if he realizes how good he can be. We cannot use him in enough ways. He’s incredibly valuable. He’s a guy who leads by example.

“Aden Green has an extreme amount of talent. We’ve just got to get him all in to understand what he can be and get his work ethic to where it needs to be.

“Hagen Stallings is an extremely physical guy. He loves to get out and hit a little bit. He’s hurt his shoulder. He’s played through injury, but he’s a go-getter. He loves Friday nights. Just his physicality, he’s one who can change a game with how hard he can play.”

Kinard said things have gone better this off-season than last year.

“With Coach Beckett coming in late last year, we weren’t able to do many camps. This year we’ve already got the jitterbugs out of us,” Kinard said. “I feel like by Week 0, we’re going to be ready for it.

“This has been one of the best summers I’ve had my whole football career. We’re bonding. We’re together. We’re working. We’re coming to the field every day, not missing a beat, not missing a rep. We’ve all come together. We’ve gotten stronger.”

Besides Leek at quarterback, Beckett said we’ll see “a lot of people in the same places.”

“Carter Dillingham is going to have to move to right tackle due to an injury. Jaden Flynt, who played guard in the spring, will be at that same position. Of course Bucky’s moved (to quarterback). PJ Williams moved to our school late. He was a defensive lineman and he’ll be at the same position. Dakota Langley played this past year and he is moving up. He’ll be a defensive end. Most everybody else will be where they have been.”

Most of the defending Class 1A, Region 7 champion Tigers’ opponents return as well. The only change within the region is Sumiton Christian departs for Region 5 and Decatur Heritage moves in. The rest of the region consists of Appalachian, Coosa Christian, Gaylesville, Valley Head and Woodville.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the region if we just play every game like it’s our last,” Stallings said. “If we play the best ball we can, I feel like we can win it again.”

Cedar Bluff opens the 2022 season this Friday at home against Winterboro, one of Beckett’s former teams. Then, county rival Sand Rock comes to town on Aug. 26. The Tigers open region play and hit the road for the first time in 2022 at Woodville on Sept. 2 and then at Gaylesville on Sept. 9.

“Our first five (games) are kind of like an SEC first five games. You’ve got to bring it on the weekly and turn it around,” Beckett said. “You start over every year, and that’s one thing you have to convince your kids of. Last year is last year. You can’t play off of last year, the year before, or any of the history that’s been here. You start over. It’s a new day. You earn your keep with this group. We are excited for it to begin.”

Cedar Bluff’s Eli McFry catches a pass across the middle during football practice on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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