by Sam Chandler
HOMEWOOD — Homewood High School quarterback Larkin Williams rolled to the right, his eyes locked on the end zone as a Pelham defender came charging toward him. Williams, a junior, braced for impact as he released a wobbling pass into tight coverage.
TyShawn Buckner had his back.
The Patriots’ standout wide receiver cut across blue-painted turf before taking flight to haul in a 15-yard touchdown. The third-quarter reception, made as a Pelham corner wrapped his hands around Buckner’s helmet, extended Homewood’s lead to 22-7 in Thursday’s season opener at Samford University.
“Once I threw it, it went through my mind a little bit, and I was like, ‘Oh gosh, what did I just do?’” Williams recalled. “But…you can depend on him to go up and get the ball. He has really strong hands, so it’s really a comforting feeling.”
Buckner proved a key factor in Homewood’s eventual 29-22 victory at the second annual Milo’s Breakfast Kickoff Classic. The 6-foot-2 wideout caught five passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns, exposing defensive mismatches throughout the night.
“We knew going into this season he would be our best receiver this year,” Homewood head coach Ben Berguson said, “and he’s going to have to carry this team.”
Buckner’s first touchdown came in the second quarter when he turned a routine slip screen into a 35-yard race to the goal line. Three Panthers chased in pursuit, and two dived at his feet. But Buckner prevailed. He strode through the back of the end zone before circling back to celebrate with a pack of jubilant teammates.
“The first touchdown, the screen route, I had good blocks my way,” Buckner said.
But he created for himself on the second strike.
Buckner used a double move on the 15-yard post route, separating just enough from his defender to make a play. His pupils dialed in on the flying pigskin. Despite the close coverage, he told himself he had to collect the catch. His quarterback was counting on him.
“I said, ‘I’ve got to score. This is for the team right here,’” Buckner recalled.
Williams and Buckner established a strong connection last season, even as the quarterback split time under center with former teammate Ty Hatcher. The pair’s chemistry has only continued to strengthen since Williams took over as the full-time starter this past spring.
That bodes well for both of them.
As Buckner stood on the field in his Patriots uniform following the win, he said he’s confident that more memorable games lie in his future. His quarterback, and coach, share the same belief.
“This is my year,” Buckner said. “I’ve got to take over.”