Indians Survive Huge Rally, Fourth Quarter Deficit to Go to 5-1 with Victory over Buckhannon-Upshur

By Jeff Toquinto on September 28, 2018 via

After squandering a three touchdown lead and falling behind in the fourth quarter, Bridgeport looked just like its opponent looked for much of the early parts of the game this evening – dead in the water.
But after falling behind late, the Indians pulled a rally of their own to spoil Buckhannon-Upshur’s upset bid.
In the end, the Class AA No. 6 Tribe had just a little bit more than the Buccaneers in a 29-28 barnburner at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Stadium in Upshur County.
Bridgeport actually led 21-0 early before watching Buckhannon-Upshur carry late first half momentum into the second half. Eventually, B-U would lead 28-21 with 5:51 to play and the Indians had done little offensively to give themselves hope they could overcome the deficit.
Hope, however, would come. And it came on the arm of Devin Vandergrift, the legs of Jake Bowen and the hands of D’Andre Hollaway.
Following B-U’s touchdown, the Tribe started at their own 30 and got things moving. Bowen picked up 15 yards and drew a personal foul penalty at the end of the series’ first play that put the Indians quickly into Buckhannon territory at the 40.
While the play fired up the BHS faithful, the Bucs didn’t let it rattle them. Instead, they managed to force the Indians into a fourth-and-seven that required the guests to burn a timeout to set up what was in effect the game-deciding play.
With the contest on the line, Vandergrift delivered. He found D’Andre Hollaway, who managed to get separation, for an 18-yard gain and new life down to the B-UHS 19-yard line.
“D’Andre was in and out during the game,” said BHS Coach John Cole. “The coaches had faith in D’Andre and Devin … (They) made the play and kept the drive alive.”
After that, Bridgeport didn’t waste any time to take advantage of a new set of downs. Bowen took the next handoff and exploded through a hole, made a few cuts and found the end zone for six points to make the score 28-27 with 3:57 to play.
While conventional wisdom may have called for the extra point kick, Cole opted to go for two – and it worked. Bowen followed his blocks on the left side of the line and converted to put Bridgeport in front for good.
“We had a little momentum and we thought that would turn the tide for us a little bit and give us the oomph to finish the game out,” said Cole on why went for two. “We felt good with the guys in there and we were blocking that play.”
Considering B-U had moved the ball almost at will on the Tribe in the second half and that the hosts had two timeouts remaining, the game was far from over. Buckhannon, however, would get no further than its own 24.
The reason for that was for the first time in the game the Indians got legitimate pressure on the Buckhannon quarterback and hit him as he threw. The pass ended up being short and Brian Henderson pulled it in for an interception at the B-U 37.
“It was really huge. We had been struggling with that,” said Cole of the pressure on the key play. “How we won the game, we may not be that happy with. But in that fourth quarter we made some plays … and they should be proud of that and the coaching staff is proud of them for it.”
Bridgeport would need just one first down to run the clock out and Bowen provided it. The Indians ended the game on a fourth down play to secure the win.
Getting the win seemed certain early and doubtful late. The reason for the doubt was a Buckhannon team that came out after the intermission and dominated on both sides of the ball and it started early.
On the first play of the third, Jacob Loudin took the pitch in the triple option and raced 40 yards to the Bridgeport 40. After a big defensive play by Austin Sponaugle brought the ball back to near midfield, the big play bug bit the Tribe.
Quarterback Ryan Strader, who tormented the Tribe all night, stood in the pocket and scanned the field to his right. What he saw was a wide open Curtis Helton for what turned into a 47-yard scoring strike and a 21-14 score after the point-after kick was unable to be completed at the 10:35 mark.
While Bridgeport moved the ball on its next possession, it was snuffed out on a fourth-and-two play in Buckhannon territory and the hosts took over at their own 39. In short order, the team proved the first score of the second half was not an anomaly.
The Buccaneers used 10 plays to cover 61 yards and it was Strader that did the honors. Strader went up the gut on what appeared to be a busted play for a five-yard run on a fourth-and-two play. Cameron Zuiliani then booted the first of her two late point-after kicks to knot the game up with 1:29 to play in the third.
Bridgeport again showed life following the score only to see B-U squash it. After advancing to the Buckhannon 30, the Tribe was stopped cold for a loss and Buckhannon had the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Although Bridgeport got its only three-and-out of the second half, the Buccaneers were happy to return the favor and got the ball back in Bridgeport territory following a short kick.
With 7:07 to play, B-U started at the Tribe 39 and wasted little time converting. Not surprisingly, it was Strader doing the honors as he kept the ball and darted to the right edge where he went 25 yards for the score and what turned into a 28-21 lead with 5:51 to go before Bridgeport’s late-game heroics.
Buckhannon would outgain the Indians in the game, finishing with 341 yards of offense that featured a balance of 198 yards on the ground and 143 through the air. Strader was the catalyst to both with all the passing yards and finished with 20 carries for 135 yards in the triple option attack.
“You’ve got to give credit to Buckhannon. They’ve got a quarterback that’s in the second year of running that (triple option) offense,” said Cole. “That’s assignment football. Unfortunately, who we had for number 16 wasn’t making plays. It’s tough, they don’t get to see (the triple option) very well in practice, but that’s not an excuse. We slip here, we grab there, we do this and we do that. We have to become a better tackling team.
“ … They deserved everything they got. (Strader’s) a good football player,” Cole continued. “He was limping a few times and doubled over a few times and, boom, there he comes back again.”
The Tribe finished with 283 yards of offense. Of that, 207 came on the ground as Bowen led the charge with 30 runs for 133 yards to go along with his four touchdowns.
For most of the first half, Bridgeport looked like it would ice the game away and make the final statistics impossible. Things started poorly for the hosts and didn’t get much better despite showing the ability to move the ball on the Indians.
The Tribe was able to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first and they did it with two drives covering a total of 64 yards. The first score came after Jake Bowen took the opening kickoff and returned it 64 yards to the Buckhannon-Upshur 30 yard line. After that, it took seven plays before Bowen scored the first of his three first half touchdowns from one yard out.
Bowen went left and quickly cut to the middle from one yard out on the play. Evan Ogden added the first of three first-half point after kicks to make it 7-0 with 8:49 left in the first.
Three plays after the score, the Bucs hurt themselves and helped their guest. A fumble at their own 37 was picked up by Trey Pancake and set BHS up at the B-UHS 34.
This time, the Indians used six plays to get back on the scoreboard. The big play was a 26-yard pass from Vandergrift to Hollaway on an end route to the 8.
It would take three plays, but Bridgeport scored. Bowen followed a big kickout block from Henderson on third-and-goal play for what would turn into the 14-0 lead at the 4:52 mark of the first.
Buckhannon showed plenty of life on its next drive. The hosts started at their own 29 and methodically marched to the Bridgeport 14 before their drive stalled. An attempted field goal went awry when the snap was an issue and the Indians took over.
And the Tribe would again make B-U pay its mistake.
Bridgeport used eight plays to cover 76 yards and go up 21-0. Bowen scored on a four-yard run on a fourth-and-goal play to put his team up three scores. The big play on the drive was another Vandergrift to Hollaway pass play. This time, an out route was good for 36 points yards to seemingly put BHS in control.
Buckhannon, however, decided to make the Tribe sweat. On its next possession, Buckhannon-Upshur would go 78 yards on 12 plays to get back into the ball game.
Strader kept it from 11 yards out to get his team on the board with the first of his three rushing touchdowns. It appeared the Indians would get a break on the point-after when the snap was high, but Helton, the holder, hauled it in and raced untouched to the right for a two-point conversion and what turned into a 21-8 score with 1:11 before halftime.
The score would stand at the half. B-U also was close statistically. Buckhannon finished the half with 151 yards of offense, including 95 yards on the ground with Strader leading the way with 64 yards on 12 carries.
Bridgeport finished with 164 yards in the first half. Of that total, 104 yards came on the ground with Bowen leading the way.  He finished with 63 yards on 14 carries.
“I told the guys after the game we didn’t come out of here with a loss,” said Cole. “When we had to stop them, we stopped them. When we had to score, we scored.  A bad team doesn’t do that.”
BHS moves to 5-1 with the win. The Indians return home next week to face North Marion. The win marked the 51st-straight season the Tribe has accomplished a non-losing season.
Buckhannon-Upshur falls to 2-3 with the setback. The Buccaneers will visit Lewis County.
Both games are set for 7 p.m.
Editor's Note: Photos by Mathew DeMaria of

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