Reynolds center Cameron Burton is comfortable with it.
Box scores, game stories and TV coverage of the Rockets football team usually don’t mention the 6-foot, 250-pound senior unless he contributes to a fumbled snap or some other mistake.
That all changed for Burton on Oct. 10. Burton joined East Henderson lineman Nathan Dalton as Western North Carolina’s only two players selected to the Dec. 21 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game in Spartanburg, S.C.
“It’s a great feeling, I wouldn’t be there without all my teammates and their support,” Burton said.
“For sure, you definitely don’t get a lot of publicity doing what I do. But it doesn’t matter if you get the ball out the way you’re supposed to do. It’s easy to do it for these guys and (quarterback Levi Ledford) is good about thanking his linemen.”
Burton is a valued blocker for the 13th-seeded Rockets (7-4), who travel to No. 4 Sun Valley (7-4) for tonight’s opening round of the NCHSAA 3-AA playoffs.
Reynolds and Sun Valley are more than two hours apart, but they have locked horns in the NCHSAA playoffs three out of the last four years. And up to tonight, all those games were at the 4-A level.
“I think we’ve got a good game plan,” Burton said.
“And I feel like we know them well. If we go there and do everything we’ve coached to do, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be a good ride back home for us.”
Ledford (2,068 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions) is busy carving out his history as a quarterback at Reynolds. He became the first Rockets player at that position to surpass 5,000 career yards last Friday.
Ledford’s top receiver, junior C.J. Allen (42 receptions for 598 yards and five touchdowns), made eight receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown in a 49-7 blowout of North Buncombe. It was the first game for Allen since Oct. 4 because of injuries suffered in a car wreck.
The rest of Reynolds’ leading receivers have been Caelan Rhinehardt (28 receptions for 369 yards and three touchdowns), Chance Towery (18 receptions) for 302 yards and three touchdowns), Khiry Lytle (14 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns) and Stone Fentzlaff (13 receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns).
A.J. Logan (520 yards, six touchdowns) and Rico Dowdle (369 yards, four touchdowns) have helped fill the void since Jave Jones (826 yards, 15 touchdowns) was suspended indefinitely for a second violation of team rules.
“All the (adversity) has definitely brought us all closer,” said Burton, who plays defensive tackle in addition to his responsibilities on offense.
“It hurts to lose certain players with so much talent, but it’s been something that we’ve had to overcome and keep going.”
Reynolds senior Thomas Blakey has broken at least six school kicking records his senior year and is 57-for-57 on extra-point attempts.
Andrew Swicegood (96 tackles), Andrew Long (65) and Jake Cardillo (65) anchor the defense.
Sun Valley’s offense is largely predicated on the rushing of junior Albert Funderburk (2,023 yards, 16 touchdowns). Senior Brian Teutonico averages 13.9 tackles a game.
“It’s going to be tough for us, but I also think it’s going to be tough for anyone who plays the three MAC teams that we’re sending to the (3-AA playoffs),” Rockets coach Shane Laws said.
“You look at Asheville and Erwin, two teams that beat us, and we’re sending three pretty good teams from this conference.”
Reynolds has won at least one playoff game seven out of the last eight years. That one exception was the Sun Valley game in 2011.