Football Bucs fall to Grafton despite valiant effort, 47-17

Junior Ian Donnen holds the ball as senior Cameron Zuliani kicks a 31-yard field goal. ROBERTA HATCHER/The Record Delta.

TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur High School football Buccaneers fell short despite a valiant effort Friday night in a conference clash with the Grafton Bearcats.

The Bucs won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, allowing Grafton to possess the ball first to start the game. Taking possession, Grafton drove down the field but was unable to put any points up on the board once when their offense reached the red zone. The Bucs defense bent, but didn’t break, stuffing the Bearcats’ running attack on the goal line several times, forcing them to go for it on 4th down. After getting a great push from their defensive line, the Bucs forced a turnover on downs.

Following their goal line stand, the Bucs assumed possession on their own 2-yard line for their opening drive of the game. B-U went three-and-out after their running game couldn’t seem to get traction against the Bearcats front seven.

 Following the punt, Grafton’s offense took the field; however, found it difficult to move the ball against a Buccaneers defense that was swarming to the ball. Unable to get anything going, the Bearcats took a gamble, again going for it on 4th down. The Buccaneers made them pay for gambling, getting a key stop, which lead to another turnover on downs by Grafton. 

On their second drive of the game, the Bucs’ running game was moving the ball in chunks. In the last minute of the first quarter, Grafton forced a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Grafton, putting the Bearcats up 7-0. 

With the Bucs’ offense eager to make a play following a costly turnover, Savion Farmer found a hole in the Bearcats’ defense and exploited it, finding his way to the end zone with a 52-yard touchdown run with just 23 second remaining in the first quarter.

After Grafton methodically drove the ball downfield in their opening possession of the second quarter and scoring from 3 yards out with 9:07 left, the Bucs found themselves facing a 14-7 deficit. However, the Bucs again responded with a scoring drive of their own, which ended in a 31-yard field goal by Cameron Zuliani, making it a one possession game again. At halftime, the Bucs found themselves in a close one, trailing 14-10. 

The Bucs received the ball after halftime, but a costly holding penalty stopped any momentum the Bucs had, stalling the drive and leading to a quick three-and-out. Grafton returned the ensuing punt 62 yards for a touchdown with 9:32 left in the third quarter. This score seemed to break the floodgates for an offense that had been largely stifled up to that point as Grafton scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, giving them a 33-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Following a quick Grafton touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bucs put together their finest drive of the evening—a five-play masterpiece, highlighted by Ian Donnen finding Sterlin Thropp twice, first for a 35-yard gain and again for a 17-yard touchdown—making the score 40-17 with 8:41 in the game. However, the signs of life on offense for the Bucs proved to be too little, too late as this one had already gotten away from them.

Following the Bucs score, Grafton responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Bringing the scoring to an end for the night as both teams’ defenses kept each other’s offenses in check for the rest of the fourth quarter. The loss drops the Bucs to 2-6 on the season, while the Bearcats improve their mark on the season to 7-2.

After the game, Coach Davis pointed to the third quarter as the key turning point in the game. “It was a good game at the half. If they don’t get that scoop and score early, we are up 10-7 at the half on a good football team. The third quarter, things started to get away from us. We couldn’t get the running game going, which is what we build our offense around,” he explained.

When asked what he expected going forward, Coach Davis responded, “There were times tonight that some of our players flashed and showed us a glimpse of what they really are capable of, which was exciting. We just need to get back to work Monday and continue to improve.”

The Bucs will continue their climb on Friday night with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Field when they face another conference foe, the Preston County Knights.

TEAM STATISTICS

First Downs – 5 (3 rushing, 2 passing)

Rushing yards – 36-151

Passing yards – 68

Total yards – 220

Passes – 6-14-1

Punts – 6-153

Fumbles – 3

Fumbles lost – 3

All-return yards – 128

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Passing – Ian Donnen 6-14 for 68 yards, TD 

Rushing – Nick Ray 1-2; Ian Donnen 4-8; Savion Farmer 18-90 (TD); Elijah Bryant 3-4; Zackery Mayle 3-5; Sterlin Thropp 1-7; Austin Watson 4-33; Liam Garcia 1-3. Totals 36-151 (TD)

Receiving – Sterlin Thropp 3-54 (TD); Elijah Bryant 2-12; Carter Zuliani 1-2. Totals 6-68 (TD)

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