Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mount Zion junior quarterback Montel Buchanan (with visor on) is one of three offensive starters returning this season for the Bulldogs. He is expected to increase his leadership role with only six seniors on the roster.
Last season, Montel Buchanan wasn't asked to do a lot from the quarterback position for Mount Zion.
The then first-year starting sophomore was surrounding experienced and talented players. His main objective was not to lose any games. He had some weapons that could definitely win some for the Bulldogs.
However, graduation has taken a heavy toll on Mount Zion as its two starting running backs and top wide receiver have all moved on to the college ranks.
Now, Buchanan will be the focus of the Bulldogs' spread offensive attack.
"It is Montel's show now," Mount Zion coach Jamie Aull said. "This entire junior class is going to have to step it up, along with the seniors."
With only six seniors on the roster, Aull is depending heavily on the junior class, especially Buchanan, to provide the leadership.
Buchanan said he is up to the chore.
"I've been working hard to do what I need to do to lead this team," said Buchanan, who passed for 950 yards and rushed for 450 last season. "I've got to lead this team. I'm putting everything on my shoulders."
Last season, the offensive workload was shared Quarterrio Morgan, Josh King and Austin Smith. All three signed Division I scholarships following the season.
Morgan, now at Western Kentucky, finished with 989 yards and eight touchdowns in an injury-shortened season. King, who signed with Georgia Southern, had 760 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith, an incoming freshman at South Carolina State, had 530 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
"I sort of leaned on those guys last season," Buchanan said. "They sort of showed me the way."
Now, Buchanan has to do the leading.
Aull said he looks for Buchanan to improve his production if the Bulldogs, who will be in a rebuilding year, can make a playoff run.
"We expect him to pass for over 1,000 yards and run for another 600," Aull said. "If he can do that, we will have a chance to win."
The athletic quarterback will have to do that behind an inexperienced line. But Aull is confident in his ability.
"Montel realizes that a lot is being placed on him," Aull said. "He has the ability."
And Mount Zion has the motivation.
Last season, the Bulldogs were in the thick of the Region 4-AAAA playoff hunt with a 5-2 record. However, after self-reporting to the Georgia High School Association that it used an ineligible player, the Bulldogs had to forfeit all five of their wins.
Mount Zion would finish the season 1-9 with its only victory being a 40-12 win, coming the day it learned of the GHSA sanctions.
"We as a staff remind the players of how it felt on that October day," said Aull, a former standout lineman on Mount Zion's 1999 state runner-up team. "Our goal is to get those games back. We want to put ourselves back to where Mount Zion football has been for the last decade or so."