Bucs bring home “The Axe,” dominating Elkins 33-6

Sophomore Blake Runyon and senior Sterlin Thropp tackle the Elkins ball carrier. Photo by ROBERTA HATCHER/The Record Delta.

ELKINS — The young Buckhannon-Upshur High School football team might not have been vying for playoff seeding in the season finale against Elkins Friday night, but there were still a few huge season goals to possibly check off—winning bragging rights over Route 33 and bringing home “The Axe.” 

The Bucs entered last week with a 2-7 mark on the season, boasting wins over both Lewis County and Philip Barbour, as they looked to renew the series with conference rival Elkins for the 99th time. If they could manage to beat Elkins, the Bucs would sweep their games against local rivals this season. The Bucs stood a good chance, if they played to their potential, as Elkins entered the game with a winless 0-9 record, having struggled on offense for much of the season.

When last year’s meeting between these two teams was cancelled due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bucs didn’t have a chance to redeem themselves after a loss to Elkins in their last meeting back in 2019. Elkins had held The Axe since that win, but the Bucs aimed to bring it back to its rightful home in Tennerton. Both teams were more than ready to go Friday night, with emotions running high by the time kickoff rolled around, setting the Bucs up for a wonderful night to play football in Elkins.

Elkins received the opening kickoff to start the game. The Tigers’ offense quickly found themselves overmatched, going three-and-out on their first drive. The Bucs took over following a punt but failed to get much of anything going on the ground, punting just a few plays later. 

After stopping the Bucs, Elkins still couldn’t manage to generate any push from their offensive line. With the Bucs clogging the running lanes, Elkins couldn’t move the ball and was forced to punt again on their second drive. 

The Bucs’ offense started to get in a rhythm on their second drive, methodically moving the ball downfield. The Bucs’ drive stalled before they got into the red zone, but they did manage to drive into range for a Cameron Zuliani field goal. She converted a 35-yard field goal with seven minutes left in the first quarter, putting the Bucs up on Elkins, 3-0.

The Bucs’ front seven stifled Elkins, forcing another punt. Elkins’ punter shanked the punt, setting up the Bucs with great field position. Taking over on the Elkins’ 26-yard line, the Bucs found the endzone on a short, five-play touchdown drive. Ian Donnen punched it in the end zone from two yards out with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter. Following a failed two-point conversion, the Bucs had stretched their lead to 9-0. 

At the end of the first quarter, Elkins put together their first productive drive of the game, picking up a few first downs; however, they stalled out before they got into the red zone. Eventually, facing a fourth-and-long, Elkins opted to attempt a field goal, which sailed wide right.

Taking over on their own 20-yard line to start the second quarter, the Bucs wasted no time getting back to work. B-UHS strung together a 13-play scoring drive that took almost the entire second quarter. Donnen capped off the drive with his second touchdown run on the evening—this one from two yards out with just over four minutes to go in the half. Following a successful kick on the extra point attempt, the Bucs led 15-0.

The Bucs’ defense, energized by the play of their offense, continued to control the line of scrimmage. Facing a fourth down, and down big late in the first half, Elkins decided to go for it. Their gamble didn’t pay off, as the Bucs’ defense forced a turnover on downs. 

Finding themselves again starting a drive deep into Elkins’ territory, the Bucs wasted no time finding the endzone again. Donnen narrowly beat the clock, scoring a touchdown from a yard out on a QB sneak with just 39 seconds left before halftime. It was all the Bucs in the first half, taking a 22-0 lead into the locker room. 

The Bucs picked up right where they left off before halftime. They received the ball to open the third quarter, going on another long drive which ate up most of the clock. Donnen found the endzone on the ground for the third time with a little under six minutes to go in the third quarter, putting the Bucs up 28-0.

The defense, playing possibly their best football of the season, forced another Elkins’ turnover on downs, giving the Bucs good field position. The Bucs couldn’t take advantage of the great field position, fumbling the ball away on their first play of the drive.

Facing such a quick turnaround, the Bucs defense finally looked winded for the first time all night, allowing Elkins to mark the ball down the field and score in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Following a failed two-point conversion, the score was 28-6.

The Bucs’ offense took the field looking to redeem themselves. That redemption came in the form of an explosive pass play from Donnen to Sterlin Thropp on a third down and long. Following that big gain through the air, the Bucs couldn’t quite finish the job, settling for another Zuliani field goal—this time from 26 yards out with seven minutes left to play. The Bucs were up big, 31-6.

In desperation mode, Elkins came out and tried to make something happen on their last drive, but ultimately ended up mishandling a snap, which bounced into their own end zone. An Elkins’ offensive lineman recovered the ball, but was tackled in the end zone, resulting in a safety with a 1:27 left in the game. This brought the Bucs’ lead to 33-6. 

The game came to an end with Donnen assuming the victory formation and taking a series of knees to kill the clock. The Bucs led from beginning to end in this one. At halftime, Elkins only had 44 yards of total offense. The Bucs looked great on both sides of the ball, moving the ball efficiently on offense and creating havoc defensively. It was a lopsided affair all night, and the boys brought The Axe home to Tennerton in dominating fashion. 

With the victory, Buckhannon-Upshur moved to 3-7 on the season. They swept their rivalry games and managed to bring both The Pick and The Axe home this season, accomplishing one of their major pre-season goals. This game allowed the seniors to go out winners and for the team’s younger players to experience a good team win that the coaches hope to build on going into next season.

The boxscore: 

Individual Statistics

Rushing – Zackery Mayle 4-13; Elijah Bryant 4-3; Sterlin Thropp 1-20; Ian Donnen 7-7 (4 TDs); Liam Garcia 3-6; Blake Runyon 6-25; Savion Farmer 20-70

Passing – Ian Donnen 6 for 8 for 120 yards

Receiving – Sterlin Thropp 4-102; Blake Runyon 1-9; Zackery Mayle 1-9

Team Statistics

First Downs – 14 (9 rushing, 3 passing, 1 penalty)

Rushing Yards – 144

Passing Yards – 120

Total Yards – 264

Passes   6-8

Penalties – 6-55

All-Return Yards – 78

Turnovers – 1 (Fumble)

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