By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Expectations entering Ed Phillips’ third season at Buffalo are high following a 9-3 season. The Bison return seven starters on each side of the ball, giving 2019 the potential to be historic.
Phillips has been able to do something that hasn’t been done at Buffalo in more than a decade: sustain success.
Each of the last three seasons has seen an improvement in the win column. In the six seasons prior to Phillips arrival (2010-15), Buffalo went just 5-55.
Righting the ship is something Phillips credits his kids and community in accomplishing.
“I learned what the players could do well and what they could not and we accentuated the things they do well,” Phillips said. “We have a group of players that play together as a team and developed a work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field that has led to our success.
“There is a lot more excitement and expectation from our community. Last season was huge and record-breaking. Our community got behind us and followed us all the way through to the end. The excitement and support from the community for this year’s team is off the charts.”
Buffalo’s nucleus entering this season is strong.
Junior quarterback Jamen Smith is back after a monster sophomore season that saw him rush for 1,548 yards and pass for 1,032 more, accounting for 36 total touchdowns. He added 43 tackles and a pair of interceptions defensively.
“Jamen is a strong, fast, smart football player,” Phillips said. “He is a competitor and an exceptional athlete. He understands the game. He has gotten bigger, stronger, faster, and put in lots of work in the weight room. He has improved in the passing game and should have better numbers this year.”
Senior running back Coltin Henderson also returns after finding success as a two-way starter last season. Henderson rushed for 683 yards and 11 scores. He totaled 53 tackles and a team-high six interceptions as well.
Phillips is excited about junior Bode Abraham’s potential on the outside as a receiver. He could emerge as a go-to option for Smith. As a sophomore, Abraham was a standout corner, finishing the season with four interceptions and 35 tackles.
For all of those skill players, the most exciting part about 2019 is the return of an entire starting offensive line unit.
Led by all-state selection Cody Smith (6-foot-2, 290 pounds), this group is comprised of five seniors – Hunter Crandall (6-1, 235), Evan Potter (5-11, 190), Lane Collamore (5-11, 210) and Levi Kenady (5-11, 250).
Even senior tight end Derek Smith (5-9, 205) is back.
Cody and Derek Smith (returning team-leader in tackles with 54), Crandle, Collamore and Kenady also help make up a physical defensive front that sets the tone for Buffalo.
Seniors Ty Tasker and Steven Vinceil will provide depth in the box. Classmate Jake VanAusdle is a returning letterman at linebacker and fellow senior Cole Bass will be a two-way guy at running back and linebacker.
Jaron Smith and Cameron Portis will look for reps at receiver and in the secondary. Both could end up playing major roles this season.
With so much experience returning – and the bitter taste of a district championship loss on their minds – the buzz surrounding Buffalo Football is understandable.
Phillips believes that loss to Springfield Catholic has been a catalyst for his program’s offseason mentality.
“It pushed them in the weight room, in the offseason and has helped them set goals to be even better this year,” Phillips said. “They are looking forward to this football season and getting back out there.”
Buffalo will open the 2019 season on Aug. 30 at Ava. The Bison will play their home opener on Sept. 13 against El Dorado Springs.