By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Tim Buchanan has always been a difference maker.
The 1979 Killeen graduate was turning heads before he lifted Aledo's second consecutive Division II-4A championship trophy Friday.
And before the Div. I-3A championship he led Aledo to in 1998.
Buchanan was even justifying his mark before he became a Kangaroo.
Once during his days at Nolan Junior High, Buchanan had strep throat the same day as a football game.
"Oh yeah - seventh grade," Buchanan quickly recalled Wednesday. "Nolan vs. Rancier. Coach (Ed) Blomquist made me go home because I had a 103- (degree) fever. I cried like a little baby."
Buchanan excelled at linebacker, the position he played at Killeen and Abilene Christian University.
"He wasn't able to play and we just thought, 'What in the world are we going to do?'" Blomquist said. "But we survived the game without him. The nurse sent him home that day and we had to make due without him - he was that kind of a player."
Buchanan, whose parents grew up in Florence, has become one of the state's top coaches in his 18 years at Aledo. Even his extended stay has hometown connections.
"When I went into coaching, guys like (former Killeen) coach Blomquist, Ricky Ray and those guys that spent the majority of their coaching careers in the same town, that's kind of how I envisioned being a coach," Buchanan said.
Early on, however, Buchanan made five stops in his first five years out of college, including time at Florence and Ellison.
He then joined Ross Rogers at A&M Consolidated, adding another Roo to a staff that included Rogers, Mark Cunningham (now at Goliad) and Martin Allen, who later served as Killeen ISD's athletic director.
Rogers, who tried to get Buchanan on his staff at Giddings, found another challenge when Buchanan reached College Station.
"You try to get your top coaches two athletic periods - one with the freshmen and one with the varsity," said Rogers, who led Harker Heights to six playoffs trips from 2000-06. "And I could only get him the freshmen period because he was too good a teacher."
The staff also included a number of future head coaches. Buchanan became the secondary coach, which at times meant practice battles with receivers coach Mike Mullins, now in his second year at Heights.
"It was very competitive for both of us, to make us better every day and for my guys to be able to work against his guys," Mullins said.
Said Buchanan: "Ross was such a good head coach and he taught us all how to be head coaches. Of course, he learned it from his daddy (former Killeen coach Gene Rogers) and passed it on to us. Basically, the thing that Ross taught us is hire good assistants and let them coach."
A&M Consolidated reached the 4A finals three times from 1989-92, winning it all in 1991. Two years later, Buchanan left for Aledo. The Bearcats hadn't reached the playoffs since 1988, losing in the first round that season and the year before.
"When I got here, we only had 17 kids playing football at that time in high school," said Buchanan, who went 2-8 in 1993. "We had to rebuild - they had been good back in the 1970s, then kind of fell off. But it's a really good community and great place to raise a family."
Aledo went 12-6-2 the next two years before putting together a run few can duplicate. The Bearcats have made the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons. Buchanan's first playoff run was to the 1996 Class 3A quarterfinals, before winning the title in 1998.
Since 2002, the Bearcats have reached at least the quarterfinals every year but one. They didn't reach the finals until last year, twice falling to Copperas Cove in the Division I-4A semifinals.
Aledo finished 16-0 this season, though, and has now won 29 straight games.
There is already talk of a third title with record-setting tailback Johnathan Gray leading a talented junior class that includes the older of Buchanan's two sons.
He's 187-49-3 in his career - 24 wins behind Rogers.
"When you look at him on the sidelines, you look at him anywhere, he carries himself as a head coach and somebody that has a plan," Rogers said. "Certainly, I was extremely lucky to have him and some other ones at that time. He's kind of embarrassing the rest of us - he just keeps on going."