Another Buckeye Union Hawks football season was in the books in November 2017, following an 8-4 record and a humbling first-round playoff loss to former 4A powerhouse Higley, 67-28. The large class of high-quality graduating seniors at nearly every position gathered around their lockers to say their goodbyes.
In what coach Kelley Moore called the “Changing of the guard,” taken from UCLA football teams of old, the underclassmen football players spoke one-on-one to their senior leaders, who each offered his piece of advice for how the team should run moving forward.
One player who stood out, in his leadership and production, was quarterback Joseph “JC” Perez, who started for two years behind center, and, with the playoff loss, wrapped up a season in which he was the team leader in both passing (2,407 yards, 38 touchdowns) and rushing (1,239 yards, 19 touchdowns).
Perez’s graduation meant the loss of one of Buckeye’s most talented players at the position in several years. Afterward, the Hawks needed to adopt a new identity.
Kicking off the season August 17 against Tucson Amphitheater, the Hawks are loaded with underclassmen talent, including quarterback possibilities Key-L Richardson and junior Angel Macedo, both of whom have different skill sets and experience. Moore said whoever gets the early nod will have plenty of room to improve. He’s excited about both kids’ future.
“Every place I’ve been, there’s a year where you don’t know what to expect,” Moore said. “That’s usually the year you look back at and say, ‘Wow, look at all that’s happened. It’s been great.’ I expect that to happen again.”
Richardson was 2017’s top wide receiver before getting injured early in the season. He brings a wealth of knowledge about the offensive playbook. If he does not start at quarterback, he will likely fill in once again as the top pass-catching option, and maybe even get some touches in the backfield.
“As a receiver, you have to know every position, know what everyone’s doing on the plays, so that helps a quarterback know the timing and the routes,” Richardson said.
“I have that experience already knowing where everybody is supposed to go. I just have to make sure my arm and everything is good to go to get the ball to them.”
Macedo backed up Perez as a sophomore last season, and saw every snap the star quarterback took. He took notes on what he could do himself.
“He taught me a lot without really saying much,” Macedo said. “I asked him a lot of questions, and he would tell me about the plays, but it was more about watching him and seeing him do a lot of the little things. I’m a visual learner, and I saw how he was around the guys.”
Moore, while trying to figure out the depth chart among several positions, said there are positives and negatives to each of the two quarterback prospects.
“I’d like to start Macedo, because Key-L does everything else,” Moore said. “If he’s the quarterback, I believe he would do a good job there, but he affects more than one position. I’ve got to move everyone around to get the new players on offense. If it’s Angel, we can have Key-L doing so many things other than throwing the ball.”
Both players are focused.
“I’ve thought about it, when people talk about being the next guy after (Perez). But, I don’t really think there’s pressure, because I want to be my own person,” Macedo said. “I don’t want to be the next him, I want to make my own statement. I waited a year behind him, so it’s my time now, and I don’t want to let anybody out-work me.
Richardson admitted he’s anxious, regardless of what position he plays, about keeping the legacy of Buckeye football intact. It mostly comes from himself and his high expectations.
“I believe there’s a lot of pressure because you want to be as good as him and the guys who came before, but you even want to be a little better, and work harder than the last person, so I expect that out of myself,” he said.
Both players plan to battle with all their might for the starting quarterback role and their teams, and that is exactly what the Buckeye coaching staff is looking for.
Looking back fondly on his time with Perez, Moore remembered what his former player said, standing next to his locker with the number five hung over it, to the two competitors about their future as Hawks football players.
“The most important thing he said to them is to compete, win or lose,” Moore said. “Nobody is going to out-compete us, and if they are better and beat us, they’re going home with a lot of bruises. That would be his message to all of these guys, and we’ll see if they take it to heart.”
Buckeye Hawks quarterbacks senior Key-L Richardson, left, and junior Angel Macedo were in a heated battle to determine the starting spot for the 2018 season. (West Valley View photo by Eric Newman)