At first glance, replacing a tailback who rushed for 1,800 yards and scored 32 touchdowns might not be the easiest thing.
Nashville Christian School might just have the answer in lightning fast Daniel Bituli. The sleek 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore is more than willing to take on the challenge of filling the footsteps of Phillip Booker, last year’s leading ball carrier.
“Phillip was a great athlete, and it was inspiring to watch him run,” Bituli said after the Eagles’ first organized practice earlier this week. “I am ready to step in and do my job, whatever it takes for us to win.
“My goal is to win at least one state championship, hopefully more. I’m hoping I can break some of his rushing records, because that would help us win.”
Booker, who is headed to Murray State, rushed for close to 4,000 career yards. He finished with 1,827 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns, 32 in all. He also won the TSSAA state A/AA high hurdles event in track his final two years at NCS.
“Last year, we had a guy who could literally score from 100 yards out with his amazing speed,” coach Jeff Brothers, who has taken his first three NCS teams to the playoffs, said. “In Daniel, we have a guy with a lot of downhill power who also has a great deal of speed, also capable of going that 100 yards. They are different type of runners, but Daniel gives us a little more power.
“He may be our next great tailback.”
Last year, NCS reached the semifinals of the Class A playoffs. With a loss at Huntingdon it fell one game short of its first finals appearance and ended 11-3.
With a bit more offensive diversity, the Eagles are looking for a longer trip in the postseason this year. One preseason poll has them ranked No. 7 in Class A.
“We all have to come out each practice and game prepared,” Bituli said. “If we do, we will be ready each gameday.”
The Eagles, with 15 starters and 10 seniors returning, are chomping at the bit to start the season. That comes with their Aug. 23 opener at Harpeth. A key region game looms Sept. 20 at old rival Jo Byrns.
Among that seasoned group is senior quarterback Ryan Young, who came into his own last season.
“Ryan really stepped it up the last half of the season,” Brothers, a former Brentwood Academy star quarterback, said. “He passed for 805 yards his last 2two and a half games.
Trent Muller, a leading candidate for Mr. Football nomination, anchors the defense. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound linebacker had 130 tackles last year, 100 of them solo, and two fumble recoveries.
“He has striker type of defensive mentality and he’s extremely intelligent, just a great all-around player,” Brothers said.
If Bituli develops and fits into the offense as expected, the Eagles should evolve into one of the most formidable teams in Class A this season.
“Of course, Phillip was a huge part of our offense last year,” Young, who directs the Eagles’ shotgun attack, said. “This year, I think we are more balanced with running and passing. We can do a lot of different things. And Daniel is going to play a big part in that.
“As for myself, I just want to do whatever I can do to help us win and prepare as best I can. Whatever is needed is what I will do. … We have some outstanding receivers, our line is very good, and I think we are going to do very well.”