Caden Buckles played for a new team this season, and he had his same old success.
As the starting quarterback for the Knoxville Catholic seventh-grade team in Tennessee, Buckles and the Fighting Irish rolled to a 10-3-2 record. “I’m actually quite pleased with how the season went,” he said. “It was a new offense for me, and I really liked it. On my team last year (Hardin Valley), it was a run-heavy offense and this year it was mainly a passing offense. It was a big change, and with the skill level of our team I was really pleased with how we played.”
Knoxville Catholic peaked at just the right time, beating two teams from North Carolina in bracket play and another team from Detroit in the finals to win the Battle in the Rocky Top national tournament in the seventh-grade division.
“It was a tough competition,” Buckles said of the annual Battle in the Rocky Top. “It’s a really hard tournament, so it was exciting to win it because we found out we can compete against teams that play on a high level. It was a really fun experience.”
From start to finish this past season, Buckles had plenty of fun and success. Running out of a read option offense, he was always in the shotgun and was able to throw or run the football.
“It was a lot of fun,” Buckles said. “This season, knowing I was going to have good receivers and with my ability at quarterback, I enjoyed the fact I was able to throw to them and it gave me the confidence I can play in a good passing offense.”
Buckles averaged close to 100 yards passing per game and scored roughly 30 touchdown on a combination of passes and rushes. “I was very happy with the way I played,” he said. “Coming from an offense that ran the ball so much and not having as many options in the throwing game to having more passing targets and more read progressions, I think I did pretty well.”
While also getting some playing time at defensive back for the Fighting Irish, Buckles delivered a pair of touchdowns – one on a Pick 6 and the other on a fumble return. “I think being a quarterback helped me play defensive back,” he said. “Knowing what the plays might be and where the other quarterback was going to throw in certain coverages, I was able to get to the right place and make plays.”
Before the season, Buckles made his second trip to the Duel and finished second among incoming seventh graders. He won NFA’s international competition in July of 2015.
“Going into the Duel this year and being the defending champion, I wanted to go in and give it my best and know no matter how it turned out, I was going to be happy,” Buckles said. “It would have been really cool to win it again because it was such a good honor. But I was still really happy coming in second, knowing that I’m in one of the top parts of the NFA seventh-grade quarterbacks.”
With his first season with Knoxville Catholic in the books, Buckles is getting right back to work in preparation for eighth grade. He is looking forward to continue training with NFA and Coach Sean McEvoy.
“This off-season, I’m going to work on accuracy,” Buckles said. “I need to get my completion percentage up and I need to work on my read progressions because going into the new offense and having more targets to throw to, I need to work down the pre-snaps of who I’m going to throw to. I’ve been training with Sean McEvoy lately one-on-one and he’s really helped me a lot.”