BUFFALO, Mo. — With just four wins in the previous four seasons, Buffalo continued to look for momentum under a new coach in 2015.
Head Coach: Mark Jackson
2015 Record: 1-9
Key players: Noah Gentry (QB/RB/WR), Austin Starkey (LB/TE), Shane Sisco (OL), Kyle Cooley (QB), Colton Kenady (OL), Hayden Gray (RB/CB)
Mark Jackson took over a very young bunch as the Bison turned in a 1-9 campaign. Now, he sees the fruits of that struggle this summer.
“Were night and day ahead of where we were a year ago,” he said. "I was hired late and we were trying to build a foundation. We were extremely young, played 13 different sophomores, and we’re light years ahead now.”
Buffalo returns nearly every starter and have a better grasp of Jackson’s no-huddle system. The coach, in turn, wants it to run faster in 2016 as he stresses terms like tempo and energy.
Noah Gentry will be key to that effort. He should be Buffalo’s most versatile threat again, seeing time at quarterback, running back, and receiver. He racked up six touchdowns and a team-high 360 rushing yards in 2015.
"He’s got good ball skills and is a good athlete. We’ll find ways to get the ball in his hands.”
Kyle Cooley is back at signal caller after a learning experience in his sophomore campaign. He threw two touchdowns to 12 interceptions, but Jackson sees progress after his quarterback got the rub on varsity.
“He should have been playing junior varsity, but he was what we had. I’m pleased with his growth and progress. He’s an example of these kids who are 100 percent better because of the beatings they took a year ago.”
“The game was a little fast for him and he made some poor decisions, but his decision-making and footwork are much better. I just see a different kid both mentally and physically.”
Three starters return on the offensive line, including guard Shane Sisco and tackle Colton Kenady, to help the process.
Junior Hayden Gray will play running back and defensive back after averaging 5.8 yards per carry last season. Overall, Jackson expects his defense to fly around.
“We’re light but quick. We’re playing a little more downhill and not catching stuff. I feel pretty good about our defense.”
If the trial by fire did pay off for the young Bison, a better grasp of Jackson’s fast-paced system could lead them to a long-awaited upswing for the program.
Buffalo travels to Fair Grove to open the season on Aug. 19.