TENNERTON – Duane Stoeckle’s biggest fear heading into his Buccaneers opener with No. 2 Fairmont Senior Friday night was just how his offensive and defensive lines would hold up against the bigger and stronger Polar Bear lines anchored by WVU recruit Zach Frazier.
On the first series of the game for the Bucs, Frazier sacked Buckhannon-Upshur quarterback Ryan Strader for a nine-yard loss and linebacker Nick Scott broke in on the next play for an eight-yard sack and the Bucs were forced to punt the ball away.
Fairmont Senior took that momentum and scored just three play later and wound up riding that wave to a 56-14 win.
“They just manhandled us up front,” remarked Stoeckle. “They are big, strong and talented and we just couldn’t compete with that. We thought we had some plans, some quick passing plays, but we couldn’t get that off or stretch the field. They took that element away from us.”
While Frazier was causing all sorts of trouble on the line, it was the guy he was protecting on offense that did most of the damage.
Junior Polar Bear quarterback Gage Michael, earning the starting role after the graduation of Kennedy Award winner Connor Neal, threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns on just eight carries in one half of football.
Fairmont Senior racked up 494 yards of total offense.
“We simply had too many misses on defense,” stated Stoeckle. “If you want to beat a team like Fairmont Senior, you can’t make mistakes like that. We had some arm tackles, guys trying to tackle with their shoulders and just overall missed tackles.”
The Polar Bears scored the first 37 points of the game.
Michael found Kieshawn Cottingham open in the end zone for their first score and then Michael had two first-quarter scoring runs of 13 yards and 27 yards to stake Fairmont Senior to a 20-0 lead after one quarter of action.
Camden Longwell hauled in a 20-yard pass from Michael, Michael then sprinted 41 yards for a score and Frankie Smith connected on a 32-yard field goal as Fairmont Senior built their 37-0 lead in the second quarter.
With the Polar Bears substituting on defense, the Bucs were able to mount their first scoring drive of the game late in the second quarter.
Starting a drive at their own 21, the Bucs marched down the field for their first score in nine plays.
The big play belonged to Strader who scampered 40 yards over the right side for a first down moving the ball to the Polar Bear 25-yard line.
Strader finished the drive four plays later with a keeper over the right side with 57 seconds to go in the half.
Cameron Zuliani nailed the point-after kick to make it a 37-7 contest.
The Polar Bears got in one more score before the half going 46 yards in just four plays when Michael kept it himself for a 12-yard scoring run.
The Bucs trailed at the half, 44-7.
Fairmont Senior made it a 50-7 game when Malachi West fumbled the ball into the end zone and recovered it for the score.
The Bucs made it a 50-14 game on their final drive of the third quarter.
Starting at the Polar Bear 40-yard line following a fumble recovery by Riley Lantz, Strader carried the ball for 23 yards to the Polar Bear 17-yard line.
A bad snap on the next play cost the Bucs 16 yards, but Strader found Brayden Cutlip down the left side line for a 26-yard reception putting the ball at the Fairmont Senior seven-yard line.
Strader ended the series with a seven-yard run over the left side with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
Zuliani was again good with her point-after kick.
Back-up Polar Bear quarterback Dominick Stingo wrapped up the scoring with a three-yard run with 5:43 left in the game.
Despite the loss, Stoeckle was pleased with how his team handled the adversity throughout the game.
“This is first time in years that I have a had a squad, that when we got down like this, they kept fighting,” stated Stoeckle. “Especially our seniors, who continued to fight, continued to work hard and provide leadership. That is something we can build on.”
The Bucs accumulated 121 yards of offense collecting 84 on the ground and 37 through the air.
Zachary Barcus led the B-U ground game with 42 yards on seven carries.
Four sacks negated a lot of the rushing yards for Strader who would up with 38 yards on 12 carries.
Strader completed four of his eight passes for 47 yards.
Cutlip hauled in two passes for 33 yards.
“We will go back to the drawing board and get better, I promise you that,” concluded Stoeckle. “Fairmont Senior was the toughest team we are going to see this season. The next nine, we can control our destiny. We can move the ball and we are going to stop other
teams from scoring. This game isn’t going to define us.”
The Bucs will head to Ripley next Friday for a non-conference contest with the Vikings.
The game will kick-off at 7:30 p.m.
Fairmont Senior 20 24 6 6 – 56
Buckhannon-Upshur 0 7 7 0 – 14
Fairmont Senior – Kieshawn Cottingham, 27-yard pass from Gage Michael (run failed).
Fairmont Senior – Michael, 13-yard run (Frankie Smith kick).
Fairmont Senior – Michael, 27-yard run (Smith kick).
Fairmont Senior – Camden Longwell, 20-yard pass from Michael (Smith kick).
Fairmont Senior – Michael, 41-yard run (Smith kick).
Fairmont Senior – Smith, 32-yard field goal.
Buckhannon-Upshur – Ryan Strader, 6-yard run (Cameron Zuliani kick)
Fairmont Senior – Michael, 12-yard run (Smith kick)
Fairmont Senior – Malachi West fumble recover in end zone (kick failed).
Buckhannon-Upshur – Strader, 17-yard run (Zuliani kick).
Fairmont Senior – Dominick Stingo, 3-yard run (kick failed).
First downs – Fairmont Senior: 20 (12 rushing, 7 passing, 1 penalty); Buckhannon-Upshur: 7 (5 rushing, 2 passing, 0 penalty.
Rushing yards – Fairmont Senior: 34-292; Buckhannon-Upshur: 34-84.
Passing yards – Fairmont Senior: 202; Buckhannon-Upshur: 37
Passes – Fairmont Senior: 10-14-0; Buckhannon-Upshur: 4-9-1.
Total yards – Fairmont Senior: 494; Buckhannon-Upshur: 121.
Punts – Fairmont Senior 0-0.0; Buckhannon-Upshur: 5-38.6.
Fumbles – Fairmont Senior: 2; Buckhannon-Upshur: 0.
Fumbles lost – Fairmont Senior: 1; Buckhannon-Upshur: 0.
Penalties – Fairmont Senior: 10-80; Buckhannon-Upshur: 5-45.
All-return yards – Fairmont Senior: 66; Buckhannon-Upshur: 103.
Fairmont Senior – Gage Michael 8-131 (4 touchdowns), Zach Toothman 3-44, Koby Toothman 3-34, Kieshawn Cunningham 4-27, Malachi West 2-18, Landon Fluharty 4-16, Dominick Stingo 4-11 (1 touchdown), Germaine Lewis 1-9, Nate Kowalski 1-4, Alec Cross 1-1, team 3-(-3). Totals 34-292 (5 touchdowns).
Buckhannon-Upshur – Zachary Barcus 7-42, Ryan Strader 12-38 (2 touchdowns), Trenton Westfall 10-14, Aaron Grubb 4-6, team 1-(-16). Totals 34-84 (2 touchdowns).
Fairmont Senior – Gage Michael 8-for-10 for 177 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions; Dominick Stingo 2-for-4 for 25 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. Totals 10-for-14 for 202 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Buckhannon-Upshur – Ryan Strader 4-for-8 for 37 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception; Ian Donnen: 0-for-1 for 0 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. Totals 4-for-9 for 37 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Fairmont Senior – Camden Longwell 4-89 (1 touchdown), Jacob Gomolak 2-25, Kieshawn Cottingham 1-27 (1 touchdown), Nate Kowalski 1-13, Nick Scott 1-10, Alex Brophy 1-38. Totals 10-202 (2 touchdowns).
Buckhannon-Upshur – Brayden Cutlip 2-33, Tyler Kuhn 1-3, Sterlin Thropp 1-1. Totals 4-37.