Junior Jake Harden began playing football at Boyd-Buchanan when he was a sixth-grader and right away showed the athletic skill set to play linebacker and fullback. Little did he know then that playing guard could be in his future.
Buccaneers coach Grant Reynolds saw early last season that some help was needed along the offensive line. After the first game, he approached Harden about making the move from running back to guard.
Not long afterward Reynolds was announcing in front of the team the sacrifice Harden was willing to make, trading in a jersey number in the 30s for one in the 50s.
“I knew from talking with him he was a team player,” Reynolds said. “Jake is willing to do whatever will make the team successful. He understood we had a need there.”
As a fullback, blocking wasn’t foreign to Harden. But he soon found out there was a different mentality to blocking as an offensive lineman. And besides, tackling had been his primary role on the team. He led the Bucs in tackles last year as a junior.
“Before, I got in very little on offense,” Harden said. “Then I was starting at guard and going against guys twice my size. It was hard to block them. It was tough.”
Harden credited assistant coach Caleb Collier for helping him improve his play at his new position. He helped himself by continuing to be a workhorse in the weight room.
“We’ve got a great group of guys who push and always urge me to do my best,” Harden said. “I try to do the same to them. I think of it as more of a challenge going in there instead of thinking I’m better than the next guy.”
Said Reynolds of the 215-pounder: “He can squat twice his body weight. Pound for pound, he’s probably as strong as any kid we’ve had.”
Harden will do what he can to help Boyd-Buchanan’s offense, but he’ll also be striving to lead the team in tackles. If he performs well in both roles, the Bucs will stand a better chance of flipping around last year’s 4-7 record.
“My goal personally is to be a leader on defense,” Harden said. “We want to achieve a lot this year. We’ve got a lot to prove after last season. I hope I can help be a big part of that.”
— Kelley Smiddie
Head coach: Grant Reynolds (68-34 in nine years here and overall)
Last year: 4-7; lost to Marion County in first round of 2A playoffs
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/7/0
(all games at 7:30 Eastern unless noted)
Aug. 22 — Red Bank
Aug. 29 — McMinn Central
Sept. 5 — at Franklin Road Academy, 8
Sept. 12 — at Notre Dame
Sept. 26 — Donelson Christian Academy
Oct. 3 — Grace Academy*
Oct. 10 — at South Pittsburg, 8
Oct. 17 — Copper Basin*
Oct. 24 — Sequatchie County
Oct. 31 — at Silverdale Baptist Academy*
*District 5-A game
G/LB Jake Harden (6-0, 205, Sr.) made the transition from fullback to guard and became a starter there midway through last season, but defense is where he’s excelled longer. Reynolds said he “really has a nose for the football.” WR/DB Ethan Cochran (5-10, 160, Sr.) is steady and dependable as a receiver, and he’s routinely in proper position in the secondary. This will be the fourth season contributing on the field and as a positive role model for OL/DL Calvin Conn (6-0, 210, Sr.). He doesn’t miss workouts. He doesn’t miss practices, Reynolds said.
RB/LB Austin Jackson (6-0, 215, Sr.) chipped in with more than 600 rushing yards a year ago, but it’s at linebacker where the Bucs need an increase in production from him this season. Reynolds describes TE/DE Jack Keebler (6-3, 215, Jr.) as “tall and rangy,” but he’s added about 25 pounds since last season, which should help him, especially defensively when taking on blockers. RB/LB E.J. Matthews (5-10, 210, Jr.) is expected to have a greater role in the offensive backfield, where he’ll primarily be a blocking back in both rushing and passing situations. He runs hard when he gets the chance to carry the ball, Reynolds said.
Q. What is Boyd-Buchanan’s record against District 5-A opponents since the TSSAA moved to the current format for football in 2009?
Despite registering its first losing record since going 4-7 in 2007, Boyd-Buchanan still won the 2013 district championship when on the final day of the regular season the Bucs edged Silverdale 22-21 on Jim Cardwell’s conversion pass to Austin Jackson in overtime.