Buza's four TDs help Millbrook past James Wood


WINCHESTER — Even before Kaden Buza got hurt in July, Millbrook head football coach Josh Haymore really wasn't sure what type of role the junior quarterback would have for the Pioneers this season. 

On Friday night, he demonstrated just how capable he is of making an offense chock-full of weapons even more dangerous.
In just his second start of the season, Buza completed 25 of 33 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns as Millbrook defeated James Wood 60-32 in a Class 4 Northwestern District game on Friday at Millbrook.
Buza  — whose only interception was as a result of a pass that went off a receiver's hands — had 186 yards and three touchdowns by halftime as the Pioneers built a 38-6 lead. His fourth touchdown was a perfectly placed pass that led Savon Smith (six catches for 116 yards, three interceptions, and three total touchdowns) over the middle for a 31-yard score that made it 46-6 with 9:04 left in the third quarter.
Haymore couldn't have asked for much more from Buza, who directed an offense that piled up 496 yards as Millbrook (6-2, 3-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) beat James Wood (2-5, 0-3) for the fourth straight season.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Buza was one of four players Haymore was looking at to play quarterback coming into this season following the graduation of all-state selection Isaac Brown.
"[Buza] did a good job in the offseason," Haymore said. "He did a really good job with our 7-on-7s, being in the weight room every day, and all that stuff. It was unfortunate he got hurt right before the season started, but going into it I thought he was was a very calm quarterback. He knows how to lead, he knows how to get guys in the right spot.
"I think he only made one mental error today. I didn't know if he was going to to the starter or not [in the offseason], but I did know [he was going to do a good job] competing."
Buza — who backed up Brown last year — was understandably frustrated that he wouldn't be able to show what he could do during the critical practices of August because of the broken ankle he suffered in late July.
"I was doing really good in the summer," Buza said. "I was throwing the ball well. I thought it was going to be a really good season, and then that happened. I was just sad. But I tried to be there for the team."
Buza returned to practice in early September and came on in relief in three straight games behind Gavin Evosirch beginning with the Turner Ashby game on Sept. 14. Buza started last week's game against Handley and shared quarterback duties with Evosirch in the second half in a 36-28 win.
Buza has made some impressive throws in the last five weeks, including a couple of nice deep balls in the last two games (a 51-yard touchdown to Savon Smith against Kettle Run and a 40-yarder to Aidan Haines against Handley), but Friday night showed he can be consistent with a heavy workload.
Aided by play sheets on the players' wrists that he said were used to help the offense be quicker and more efficient, Buza was accurate with quick passes and throwing on the run on designed rollouts. One of his best throws was a beautiful back-shoulder throw to a well-covered T.J. Spain (five catches, 49 yards) in the front left corner of the end zone from 19 yards out with 2:54 left in the first half. 
"I've been reading the coverages pretty good," Buza said. "Coach [Haymore] has been helping me with my throwing and reading defenses and calling the right plays.
"We came out a little slow [falling behind 6-0], but then we got into it. We got our plays down, got physical. When we got physical, we started playing really good, and they couldn't stop us."
The Pioneers scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Buza's first touchdown went for 24 yards to Evosirch (102 total yards, 76 yards on five receptions) and tied the game at 6-6. Noah Robinson (15 carries for 130 yards and two TDs) then put Millbrook ahead for good with a 46-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the first quarter, with Smith's two-point run making it 14-6.
The Pioneers' defense helped Millbrook continuously expand its lead in the first half with some key stops in short-yardage situations, and a couple of huge interceptions from Smith.
Carson Hoberg (7 of 23 for 124 yards, one TD and three interceptions) took advantage of a blown coverage to connect with Tylor McBride for a 60-yard pass to the Millbrook 3 on the game's first possession, and Jackson Turner (15 carries, 65 yards) scored from one yard out two plays later to make it 6-0 James Wood.
But on James Wood's second possession, Millbrook stopped William Crowder (10 carries, 59 yards) a yard short on fourth-and-2 from the Pioneer 34.
On the Colonels' third possession, James Wood dropped a potential first-down pass on third-and-3 and had to punt after Hoberg was pressured before throwing.
Smith intercepted Hoberg at midfield on the Colonels' fourth possession, leading to a Smith 12-yard run 10 plays later that made it 22-6.
The Pioneers' prevented a third-and-1 completion at the James Wood 44 on the Colonels' fifth drive. 
Finally, Smith picked off a pass at the Millbrook 15 on third-and-1 from the Pioneers' 37 and had what would have been a touchdown return if not a blocking penalty. The Pioneers started at the James Wood 30 and Buza connected with Jordan Jackson (eight catches for 72 yards) on a seven-yard score on the final play of the half.
Though James Wood gained 307 yards after halftime, Millbrook limited the Colonels to 159 yards in the decisive first half. The Pioneers did that even though they did not have linebacker Tyrek Talley, who came into the game with 70 tackles (tied for the area lead) and had four sacks last week against Handley. Talley did not dress to play Friday.
Haymore credited Jacob Young, Mikael Payne and Diante Ball (who blocked a punt for a safety in the second half) for their play at linebacker, with Young taking on Talley's "Mike" middle linebacker position. He liked what the defense as a whole did, especially in the first half.
"They did a good job of taking coaching this week and just seeing their keys," Haymore said. 
Smith said the Pioneers did a good job responding after the first drive and did well to make things tough on Hoberg.
"The D-Line really did a great job of applying pressure and making him uncomfortable," said Smith, who scored Millbrook's final points on a 57-yard interception return. "Same with the run, just studying all week and preparing for what they wanted to do."
James Wood coach Ryan Morgan said the Colonels definitely had their opportunities to put up more than six points in the first half.
"There were some blocks that we missed, and plays that we missed," Morgan said. "Throwing the ball, there were some open receivers on occasion. There were some cuts that we could have made running the ball that we just didn't see. There were some in the second half, too." 
Though James Wood fell behind 46-6, the Colonels showed impressive fortitude in scoring 20 straight points.
James Wood caught a bit of a break when Treyven Mandel caught a 26-yard touchdown pass off a deflection that likely would have been picked off if not for two Millbrook players colliding with each other. (Jackson was injured on the play and was given crutches to move around after the game.)
But Crowder then recovered an onside pooch kickoff at the James Wood 28, which led to a Sam Adkins 1-yard touchdown run with 3:11 left in the third quarter that made it 46-20.
After forcing a fumble at its own 1-yard line on Millbrook's next possession, James Wood drove 92 yards over 16 plays for another touchdown. Drew Reece, who came on for an injured Hoberg (who would return later), connected with Mandel for a 31-yard score to cap the drive and make it 46-26 with 6:11 left in the game.
A Robinson 29-yard TD run and Smith's interception return TD halted the Colonel scoring run.
"Some things didn't go right in the first half, but we talked at halftime about making sure we came out and didn't quit," Morgan said. "I thought the kids rose to the challenge and played some good ball before the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter."