TENNERTON — How we choose to act in the face adversity defines who we are. In the grand scheme of things, the adversity athletes face enduring the rigors of their given sports is small compared to the many other types of daunting challenges life can throw in one’s path. Nobody can attest to facing adversity quite like Buckhannon-Upshur graduate and former Quarterback Seth Poling, who just over five years ago was diagnosed with ALS
(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease). Despite his illness, Poling has continued to attack vigorously and helping others that face a similar struggle with ALS through his work with the SETH Project. Let there be no doubt, his energy, spirit and message of facing adversity, overcoming and always fighting lit up the Buccaneer locker-room before last Friday, September 2’s home opener at Freal “Red” Crites Memorial Stadium against the Ripley Vikings.
Poling spoke on his feelings on being honored Friday night, saying, “I cannot believe the overwhelming love and support I have received. This has meant the world to me. I have so many fond memories of playing on this field. Although, I seem to remember the playing surface being significantly more firm and with a bunch more mud. I want to thank Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Principal slash Coach Eddie Vincent, Athletic Director Rick Reynolds, Head Coach Zach Davis and the Buckhannon-Upshur football team for making this happen. I want to thank my High School football teammates for coming to support me. I want to thank the SETH Project. I want to thank my wife, Erika. I would not be here without her love and support. To my boys, I love you. I want to thank my mom, Mary Alice, for her planning and fundraising. I want to thank my friends, family and the Buckhannon community for their continued love and support. Buckhannon is a fantastic place. I had the time of my life on this field. I gave everything I had to the Buccaneers during my playing time. I have been dealt a tough hand with ALS, but I refuse to let that define me. I want to educate and advocate to raise awareness to help end ALS. Please consider visiting iamALS.org or looking into the ALS Association to support ending ALS.”
Coming off of a rough opening week against Bridgeport, the Buccaneers were boosted heading into their game with the Vikings by the return of senior quarterback Ian Donnen, who missed last week’s opener after tweaking his shoulder.
Energy was high at kickoff, as the Buccaneers were ready to run through a wall after the emotional pregame speech. Both teams started off slow offensively, feeling out each other’s defensive personnel and scheme. Ripley struck first, scoring their only touchdown of the game in the waning minutes of the first quarter, capitalizing on good starting field position by scoring on a three-yard scamper. The extra point was blocked, but Ripley still found themselves up on the scoreboard 6 to 0.
The Buccaneers responded with a score of their own at the 8-minute mark, as Donnen kept it himself and made a physical play to score from 3-yards out. Wyatt Mason booted the extra point through the uprights to give the Buccaneers a narrow 7 to 6 lead midways through the second quarter. The score stayed deadlocked at 7 to 6 as both teams headed into the locker-room for halftime.
The third quarter was a battle of wills, as neither team could strike a decisive blow against each other’s stout defensive units. The Buccaneers offense finally broke through on masterful, 11-play 90-yard drive that Donnen capped off his second rushing touchdown of the day, on another hardboard quarterback sneak, this time from just 2-yards out. The extra point veered to the left of the uprights, as the Buccaneers extended their lead to 13-6.
With time running out, Ripley strung together a solid drive, marching into the redzone with relative ease until the Buccaneers front responded with a series of massive stops. Well within four-down territory, in a one-score game facing a fourth and six on the Buckhannon 15-yard line, the Vikings had no choice but to go for it. It seemed as if the Vikings would convert until Donnen made an impressive open field tackle to stonewall the Vikings. The Vikings weren’t able to seriously threaten to score again, allowing the Bucs to hold on for the win.
It was a team effort for the Buccaneers in their gritty win last Friday night. Donnen certainly made his mark on the game as an impact player on both sides of the ball, rushing for 8 yards on 4 Carrie’s, scoring twice and pacing a gritty Buccaneers running attack, while coming up with some timely heroics when his team needed it the most defensively. Senior running back duo Savion Farmer and Elijah Bryant both enjoyed big days, with Farmer pacing the Bucs’ rushing attack with 125 yards on 18 Carrie’s, while Bryant rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries. The trio helped lead an efficient Buccaneer ground game as they won the battle in the trenches, out rushing the Vikings 249 to 170.
Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Zach Davis was excited with how his team responded against Ripley following a tough loss to a highly touted Bridgeport squad saying, “The pre-game speech by Seth Poling inspired our players to look adversity in the eye and stand strong. The speech helped our players reach deep inside themselves to continue to fight and beat Ripley in the fourth quarter. This was the first AAA victory since 2018, so this win means a lot to our program.”
Davis credited the toughness of Donnen and the rest of his team for pulling out the hard fought win, saying, Ian is a leader on our football team. He kept his cool during the game and led our team to victory. Our players are full of grit and they stuck to the plan. They played their hearts out and earned the victory. We need to clean up our mistakes and we will work on them in practice. We will win the day, every day this week and prepare ourselves to compete to the best of our ability against Philip Barbour.”
With the win, Buccaneers moved to 1-1 so far this season. Coach Davis and his team will be back in action this coming Friday, September 9 against the Philip-Barbour Colts (1-1), with kickoff scheduled for 7 PM. It will be interesting to see if the Buccaneers can maintain the recent trend in this Route #33 rivalry, as they have won 6 of their last 9 meetings.