South Jersey Football: Buena Has Talent to Win a Ring
Last year, the Buena Regional football team didn’t get a whole lot of attention, even as the Chiefs kept piling up wins throughout September and October.
That’s kind of the nature of the best, though, when you’re a Group 1 school with less than 600 students. The Chiefs rarely get a lot of fanfare or headlines, but that’s just fine with them. They’re just going out there every Friday night to prove that this small team — which only features about 40 players on both the JV and varsity levels — can outwork anybody in a different colored uniform.
That sort of mindset has made Buena one of the better teams in South Jersey Group 1 the past couple of years, and expect a lot more of the same in 2019.
“We don’t worry about (media attention),” said head coach Jonathan Caputo. “All (the lack of headlines) does is give coaches another carrot to dangle out in front of them that they can chase after. We like playing that kind of role.”
“We just want to get a ring,” said senior running back/defensive back Byron Spellman. “Everybody just has to do what they are supposed to, fly around and play 100 percent. I love hearing all the people who don’t think we can win. I love the doubters.”
Added senior quarterback Luke Santiago, “it’s all hard work. We’re all lifting after practice, everybody is going 100 percent every play; team ‘O’, team ‘D’, everybody gets after it. We love competing. It’s the same formula as last year, work hard, hit hard, go get it.”
Buena went undefeated through the regular season a year ago, then beat Glassboro, 35-12, in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs before the Chiefs’ title hopes were dashed with a 17-6 loss to top-seeded Penns Grove, the eventual sectional champion. That one blemish on Buena’s record has been a big motivator for the Chiefs during the offseason workouts and training camp. They want to win a championship, and believe they have the guys who can do it.
“That’s been our goal since Braves mini-football,” Santiago said. “Last year we were right there, we just came up a little short, so this year we’re looking to finish it. In the first weight room session (after the season) everybody was there grinding. Everybody wants it, you can tell.”
“We have a good crew coming back. Obviously, we lost a lot of talented seniors from last year and they’ll be hard to replace, but the junior class from last year, all the way through growing up they’ve been winners and that’s driving us,” Caputo added. “Our goals are the same as last year — we want to win our division and compete in the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs.”
Buena always is a tough matchup because they run the Delaware Wing-T offense — or, at least a variation of it. Defenses don’t see much of that offense anymore aside from teams like Buena, Delsea Regional, West Deptford and a few others, and Buena has some pretty good speed to implement a passing game as well.
“We do a couple things out of it that are different from the traditional wing-T. The (youth league) Braves run the same system so they’ve been hearing the terminology for years, and one of my assistant coaches is a coach over there, so hopefully when they get here it’s not all brand new,” Caputo said. “We think (running this offense) is part of our advantage. A lot of people are running spread and shotgun, then when they have to play us it’s not that familiar, and I think that helps us. It’s one more thing a team has to prepare for.”
Buena very well may get another shot at Penns Grove — typically a playoff contender each year — in November, and the Chiefs hope to serve up a cold plate of revenge if, indeed, that happens. “It’s a huge advantage. We have four guys running the football as hard as possible. We like hitting, but we also have guys who can be out in space making people miss. It’s going to be a fun season,” Santiago added. “I’ve been running the same offense since I was probably 5 years old, so I’m used to running the ball, but I look to make the most of my opportunities when we throw the ball.”
“These guys are excited. They still remember that Penns Grove game that we lost in the (SJG2) semis — our only loss last year — and they want redemption,” Caputo said. “The seniors know this is their last go-around so they are competing well and driving us. We have a really good team in Gateway the first week, so we’ll see how good we are right away.”
BUENA REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Sept. 6 at Gateway (7 p.m.)
Sept. 14 at Haddon Heights (10:30 a.m.)
Sept. 20 at Middle Township (6 p.m.)
Sept. 27 vs. Lower Cape May (6 p.m.)
Oct. 4 vs. Lindenwold (6 p.m.)
Oct. 11 at Gloucester City (7 p.m.)
Oct. 18 at Clayton (7 p.m.)
Oct. 25 vs. Pleasantville (6 p.m.)
Nov. 1 vs. Gloucester Catholic (6 p.m.)