MATTHEWS – Butler offensive guard TJ James likes taking part in touchdown celebrations and that is becoming the norm. The Bulldogs have started Southwestern 4A conference play with three straight victories.
The latest win on Oct. 5 was a convincing decision over previously undefeated Myers Park. The play of James and his teammates in the offensive trenches was a key to the Bulldog success.
In the win against the Mustangs, Butler rushed for 219 yards on 41 carries while taking control of the conference race. Behind an offensive line that helped Butler dominate the time of possession, the Bulldogs rushed for 165 yards in the second half while scoring 32 points in the 17-point victory. On the year, Butler is averaging 200 yards a game rushing and 175 yards passing.
“We have been doing our assignments and staying where we are supposed to be,” James said. “I love blocking for them and seeing them score. I celebrate touchdowns, too.”
James is joined on the offensive from by tackles Trey Richburg and Anthony Carter, guards Muhammed Al-Taher and Leo Arredondo, center Brenden Manning and tight end Caleb Barker.
“These guys have been getting better every week,” said Butler coach Brian Hales. “They have gone from the point to just trying to get in the right spots to now they are trying to put people on their back. They have physically taken games over the last few weeks. When you line up and teams know you are going to run the ball and you run it well, that is a huge advantage.”
Most of Butler’s offensive linemen play just one way. Hales said that, and the fact the linemen have stayed true to the team’s conditioning, has been a plus for the Bulldogs.
“We are getting into the fourth quarter and we are seeing a lot of teams, especially defensively, starting to cramp up and go down late in games,” Hales said. “That’s a tribute to these guys because they are being physical on every play. It’s huge to have that group be fresh. To be able to go back out there on offense and be fresh is awesome.”
Hales said the play of the offensive line was big in the win over Myers Park.
“They were a big contributing factor in a complete team win,” Hales said. “And it is still a young O-line as we are only playing two seniors up front from tackle to tackle.”
Manning, a two-year starter on the interior line, knows he must be a leader on and off the field.
“I feel that I have to lead my younger brothers to victory,” Manning said. “Our team chemistry is very good. This season has been really fun, and we are going to get it done. We need to keep doing what we are doing and get better each game.”
Hales said Manning has an excellent work ethic.
“I just love having him out there and he is doing a tremendous job,” Hales said. “You know you are going to get his very best, whether it is Monday afternoon or Friday night. His leadership keeps thing calm in the middle. His experience has been invaluable.”
Carter, a 6-foot-5, 281-pound junior who already has offers from Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State, said the Bulldogs have found a rhythm on offense.
“We are now on a roll,” he said. “We are helping getting the team touchdowns but we have to get better each game we play.”
Butler (5-2, 3-0) travels to Hickory Ridge on Oct. 19.