Boyd-Buchanan's John Hale wears many hats, so to speak, but only one helmet.
The junior running back, safety and return specialist has rarely gotten a break from the football action on Fridays this fall, and that will likely be the case again when Boyd-Buchanan (10-1) hosts Friendship Christian School (9-3) tonight at 7 in a TSSAA Class 2A state quarterfinal.
Coach Grant Reynolds said it's safe to say the Bucs will make sure Hale "gets some touches" against the Commanders. Hale will have an equally important role as the last line of defense on their stop unit.
"Everybody has a role on the team," Hale said. "My goal is to do my job the best I can and just try to help out the team."
Chase Reed has led the Bucs' ground game this season with 1,287 yards and 18 touchdowns. But without Hale in the lineup, defenses could afford to concentrate their effort more toward containing him.
When Hale bruised a knee in the fourth quarter of Boyd-Buchanan's season-opening win over Chattanooga Christian, he had to miss the next game. Reed was held to a season-low 19 rushing yards as the Bucs edged East Ridge 7-6 in overtime.
Hale has contributed 610 rushing yards as part of his 1,123 all-purpose yards.
"He comes to practice and works hard," Reynolds said of Hale. "He's not a very vocal guy, but he's pretty intense. He has a lot of quickness and he has good vision. That's whether he's catching the ball out of the backfield or running between the tackles. He's also a good blocker for us."
Of his many roles, Hale said he likes returning kickoffs and punts best. He took a kickoff in last week's playoff game against Rockwood, got behind the wedge set up for him and 88 yards later was in the end zone for his 10th touchdown of the season. It was a pivotal play in the Bucs' 17-13 victory, particularly since it was the kickoff after the Tigers had just gone up 13-10 with a little less than four minutes to play.
"I just love it," Hale said of returning kicks. "If I catch it and see daylight, I go. We have good blocking out there, too. That helps everything out."
Hale's role defensively this week can't be understated, either, as Boyd-Buchanan tries to slow Friendship's power rushing attack. Reynolds is depending on Hale to be alert in the back, in case the Commanders try to go over the top with a pass after lulling the defense with its running game, as well as being able to come up and help stop runs.
"We've got to wrap up, tackle well, get off blocks and be smart," Hale said.
With another busy night looking like it's in store, Hale not only accepts his many duties but relishes them. As Reynolds said, "Such is life at a small school," and this small school is two victories away from playing in its fifth state final.
"This team can accomplish big things," Hale said, "really big things."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.