TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur football team overcame a mistake-filled evening with a key defensive stop in overtime to claim a dramatic 20-19 victory over Princeton in the season opener Friday night at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Stadium.
In a battle of triple-option offenses, the first four quarters provided little drama as both teams were plagued by penalties and turnovers.
The excitement level changed in overtime, however, as the Buccaneer defense stopped Tiger quarterback Devon Sibley on a two-point conversion attempt to preserve the victory and set off a wild celebration.
“It was just a crazy game, especially in overtime,” said B-U coach Duane Stoeckle. “In my 21 years here, this is just the second overtime game I’ve been part of and the first since I became head coach five years ago.
“It certainly was nerve-racking and not a pretty game to watch. But our kids dug deep and found a way to get the win.”
The Bucs trailed 13-7 before tying the game with five minutes left in regulation to force the extra action.
In high school overtime, the teams start at the 20-yard line.
B-U had the first possession and the penalties that plagued both teams in regulation, carried over into OT.
Each team was whistled for four infractions on the Bucs’ first series, including a pass interference penalty against the Tigers on a third-and-12 that moved the ball to the 6-yard line.
On the next play, sophomore Ryan Strader, making his first varsity start at quarterback, took off on a keeper to the right side and found the end zone to give B-U a 19-13 lead.
The crucial extra-point attempt turned into another mistake-heavy affair by both sides.
Junior kicker Alek Seech’s first attempt was good. However, a motion penalty nullified the point.
Princeton was flagged on the next two tries, including a roughing-the-kicker call.
Seech finally drilled the PAT on his fourth attempt to give B-U a 20-13 advantage.
“I give Alek a lot of credit for making that attempt,” Stoeckle said. “With so much on the line, it seemed to take forever out there on that PAT and he got the job done.”
Princeton wasted little time responding on its possession, as three straight runs moved to the ball to the 10 to set up Sibley’s score.
The Tigers and first-year coach Chris Pedigo elected to go for the winning two-point conversion and after a B-U timeout, Sibley took off on a naked bootleg to the left side and was whistled down before he could get the ball over the goal line.
“I thought our pursuit on the play was good,” Stoeckle said. “That’s something we work on in practice. We knew [Sibley] was going to run the ball and our guys did a good job of tracking him down before he could [get over the goal line].”
Sibley, a senior transfer from PikeView, finished the night with 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The Bucs’ opening drive of the 2017 began with promise as junior Dash Davis broke loose on the game’s first play from scrimmage and raced 45 yards to the Tiger 22-yard line.
But a fumble on the following play was recovered by Princeton.
After forcing a punt, B-U capitalized on good field position and this time to found the end zone.
Strader had a pair of 13-yard runs during the scoring drive, which was capped by his 1-yard score. Seech added the conversion kick to make it 7-0 with 5:04 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs were unable to take advantage of a fumble recovery by junior Jonathon Warner on Princeton’s next possession as a low snap led to a failed FG attempt.
B-U recovered another fumble on Princeton’s next possession, this time by junior Michael Fultineer, but again was unable to produce points as the drive ended on downs.
The Tigers took advantage of the opportunity when Sibley connected with Chiron Cannady on a rare pass attempt that gained 54 yards and moved the ball to the Buccaneer 20-yard line.
Three plays later, sophomore fullback Aaron Edwards scored from four yards out and the successful PAT kick tied the game at 7-7 with 6:53 left in the first half.
Princeton struck again before halftime after forcing a B-U punt. Starting at their own 32, runs of 38 and 34 by Sibley led to his 4-yard run with 1:41 left in the second quarter. The kick attempt was blocked, however, keeping the score, 13-7.
A rapid third quarter saw Princeton take the second-half kickoff 12 plays before the drive ended on downs on the B-U 30.
The Bucs’ first possession of the third quarter ended with a fumble at the Princeton 40-yard line but the Tigers were forced to punt after just three plays.
Taking over at midfield, B-U used eight plays to reach the PSHS 22-yard line. But a delay of game penalty forced a fourth-and-long and the drive ended on downs.
The Buccaneer defense provided a much-needed turnover on Princeton’s following possession. With Sibley briefly sidelined with an injury, Fultineer picked off the reserve quarterback’s pass attempt after he was pressured by Ilan Rice and raced all the way to the Tiger 10-yard line.
“That play Fultineer made was a game changer,” Stoeckle said. “We needed a spark and that gave us the momentum we needed in that situation.”
B-U overcame a block-in-the-back infraction on its first play from scrimmage to eventually tie the game on junior fullback Casey Hamner’s 2-yard plunge with 5:11 left in regulation.
A low snap on the PAT kick, though, led to a miss and the game remained tied at 13-13.
Princeton’s threatened to score on the following series behind the running of Sibley, who handled the ball on seven straight plays.
But on fourth-and-one from the Buccaneer 22 and just under :30 left in regulation, a pass attempt failed to give B-U the ball back and force OT.
“We will celebrate this one and then get ready for Ripley,” Stoeckle said. “With so many young players, we had numerous mistakes that must be addressed and corrected.
“We were fortunate to come out of this one with the win, but going forward we can’t make the mistakes like we did tonight.”
The Bucs were whistled for 12 penalties on the night, while committing two fumbles. Princeton was guilty of six infractions and three turnovers.
B-U finished with 301 yards of total offense, 239 coming on the ground. Davis led the way with 91 yards on 14 totes, Hamner added 84 on 15 attempts and Strader 68 on 15 tries. Strader also completed 3-of-5 passes for an additional 46 yards. Drew Heatherly had a 33-yard reception.
Fultineer, along with a fumble recovery and an interception, tallied five solo tackles for the B-U defense. Riffle, Ilan Rice, Tyler Cutright and Hamner added four stops each.
The Tigers tallied 257 yards rushing and 62 through the air for 319 yards of total offense.
Edwards followed with Sibley’s rushing effort with 57 yards on the ground on 12 attempts.
The Bucs will take to the road Friday at Ripley for a 7:30 p.m. contest, while Princeton hosts Bluefield on the same evening.
Princeton 0 13 0 0 6 — 19
B-U 7 0 0 6 7 — 20
B-U — Ryan Strader 1 run (Alek Seech kick), 5:04
PSHS — Aaron Edwards 4 run (kick good), 6:53
PSHS – Devon Sibley 4 run (kick failed), 1:41
B-U — Casey Hamner 2 run (kick failed), 5:11
B-U — Strader 6 run (Seech kick)
PSHS — Sibley 10 run (run failed)
Rushing: PSHS 49-257, Sibley 25-142, Edwards 12-57, Joseph Barton 5-26, Ranson Graham 5-18, Cameron Shumate 2-14. B-U 45-239, Dash Davis 14-91, Hamner 15-84, Strader 15-68, Brayden Cutlip 3-7, TEAM 2-(minus 11)
Passing: PSHS, Sibley 2-3-0-62, Graham 0-1-1-0. B-U, Strader 3-5-0-46
Receiving: PSHS, Chiron Cannady 1-54, Barton 1-8. B-U, Drew Heatherly 1-33, Cutlip 1-8, Josh Riffle 1-5.