TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers football team faced a challenge under Friday night lights at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Field when the #3 ranked University (Morgantown) Hawks came to town.
B-UHS won the coin toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff to start the game; however, the Buccaneers quickly found themselves overmatched by a stout Hawks’ defense. After a quick three-and-out, the Bucs were forced to punt to University’s electric return man Daminn Cunningham, who made them pay by returning the punt for the game’s first touchdown. The game followed this script for much of the first quarter, with the Bucs’ offense failing to make much headway against the Hawks’ defense on the ground or through the air, being forced to punt, then quickly giving up explosive plays to either the Hawks’ offense or special teams units.
At the end of the first quarter, the Hawks led 28-0. But as the first quarter gave way to the second, the Bucs began to get acclimated to this level of competition, playing much better in the second quarter, and only allowing University to score one more time before the half. The defensive resurgence in the second quarter was led by versatile playmaker senior Sterlin Thropp, who found himself making plays all over the field for the Buccaneers’ defense.
At the halftime, the Bucs found themselves trailing the Hawks’ 35-0. However, midway through the third Quarter, on their ninth possession of the game, the Buccaneers offense generated a few explosive plays of their own. The drive started with junior QB Ian Donnen dropping back to pass and throwing a perfectly precise lob pass to freshman WR Carter Zuliani who had beaten a University defender with a sharp deep route. That pass—a gain of 25 yards—was the most electric play of the game for the Bucs up to that point and seemed to bring the young Buckhannon-Upshur squad to life.
The very next play from scrimmage was a counter to sophomore RB Liam Garcia, who proceeded to plant his foot in the ground and turn up field. He was only stopped from scoring when he was tripped up by a Hawk defender making a touchdown-saving shoestring tackle.
Suddenly, after two huge plays, the Bucs found themselves in the red zone for the first time all night. With the Hawks’ touted defense on their heels, the momentum finally started to swing in favor of the Buccaneers. This drive was capped off a play later by the same man who kickstarted it, when Donnen fought through several would-be tacklers on a QB sneak, scoring the first and only touchdown of the game for Buckhannon with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter, making the score 56-7.
Following that offensive outburst, University regained control of the game by opting to keep the ball on the ground and bleed the clock for much of the fourth quarter. The game came to its end with University assuming the victory formation and taking a knee in Buccaneer territory.
While many would hang their head with a loss that dropped Buckhannon to 2-5 on the season, there were many positives to be gleaned from this outing. A very young Buckhannon-Upshur squad managed to put points on the board against one of the best defensive units in the state, while their defense played much better after surviving the initial first quarter barrage by University. The Bucs only gave up a single touchdown in the second quarter and a combined 28 points in the second half, matching the total number of points they allowed in the first quarter alone.
Once this young team adjusted to the style and tempo that University was playing at, they held their own despite the story the scoreboard paints. Head Coach Zach Davis’ comments after the game echoed this sentiment. “My young squad held their own against one of the most talented teams in the state—a team with several Division 1 prospects on its roster. I’m proud of the way my team competed tonight,” Coach Davis expressed.
This game will prove to be an invaluable learning experience for the Buccaneers moving forward. Friday night, regardless of the outcome, showed that the football program is trending in the right direction and has brighter days ahead in the not-too-distant future.
Buckhannon-Upshur: 0 0 6 0 – 6
University: 28 7 14 14 – 63
Buckhannon-Upshur: Donnen, 2 yard run (2-point conversion failed)
First Downs – Buckhannon-Upshur: 5 (2 rushing, 2 passing, 1 penalty); University: 7 (6 rushing, 1 passing)
Rushing Yards – Buckhannon-Upshur: 34-107; University: 17-124
Passing Yards – Buckhannon-Upshur: 32; University: 266
Passes – Buckhannon-Upshur: 2-7-0; 7-12-3
Total Yards – Buckhannon-Upshur: 139; University: 390
Penalties – Buckhannon-Upshur: 2-15; 4-50
Punts – Buckhannon-Upshur: 8; University: 2
Fumbles – Buckhannon-Upshur: 1; University: 0
Interceptions – Buckhannon-Upshur: 1; University: 1
All Return Yards – Buckhannon-Upshur: 87; University: 182 (3 TDs)
University – Colin McBee 4-63 (2 TDs); Avery Dalton 5-22 (TD); Alejandro Sanchez-Solis 1-5; Kylan Blunt 3-11; Alex Donato 2-16; Luke Hudson 2- -5
Buckhannon-Upshur – Ian Donnen 4- -1; Elijah Bryant 8-22; Camden Snyder 7-11; Liam Garcia 8-66 (1 TD, 1 Fumble); Zackery Mayle 5-6; Luke Yardley 2-4
University – Chase Edwards 5-8 for 255 yards (3 TDs, 1 INT); Luke Hudson 2-4 for 11 yards
Buckhannon Upshur – Ian Donnen 2-7 for 32 yards (1 INT)
University – Sage Clawges 1-47 (TD); Elija Jackson 2-44 (TD); Jack Smith 2-24; Daminn Cunningham 1-77 (TD); Colton Guthrie 1-9
Buckhannon Upshur – Elijah Bryant 1-7; Carter Zuliani 1-25