Immediate rematch in playoffs for Buffalo, Wahama
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few minutes after Wahama beat Buffalo 41-13 last Friday, neither coach seemed all that convinced that their teams could stage a rematch in the Class A playoffs just one week later.
Bison coach Mike Sawyer, in fact, was almost certain he'd draw another, even long trip for the first round.
"It looks to me like we're going to play Madonna,'' Sawyer said.
White Falcon coach Ed Cromley hadn't even entertained the thought of who his team would meet.
"The first team we play in the playoffs [is next],'' Cromley said, "but we don't know who that will be for a while.''
Turns out that hardly anyone expected Tug Valley to knock off Clay County on Saturday night, which bumped Buffalo down to the No. 14 slot and set up an instant-replay rematch with Wahama in the first round. Kickoff is set for 7:30 Friday at Point Pleasant, since the White Falcons' field is not an approved playoff site.
Each team got a pretty good look at the other last Friday, and Buffalo led twice before Wahama bunched three touchdowns into the final 4:45 of the second quarter to take a 27-13 halftime advantage.
Included in the barrage was an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Wahama's Kane Roush and, a few minutes later, a fumbled kickoff return by the Bison that left the White Falcons with only 31 yards to cover for another score.
Sawyer said there was some give and take in drawing a familiar opponent for the opening round of the state playoffs. The Bison and White Falcons have played each other toward the end of the regular season for the last several years.
"I don't know,'' Sawyer said, mulling the thought. "You'd kind of like to play somebody you don't know, but the way that game went [Friday], you always want a chance to do it again, so that's a part of it, too.
"We played with them, then things started falling apart when they returned the kickoff and we dropped the kickoff. That had a domino effect on us. Against a very good team, you can't make mistakes like that. You have to bring your 'A' game.''
Buffalo surely didn't do that on Friday, losing two fumbles and being whistled for 13 penalties, which cost 119 yards.
Five of those were pre-snap infractions, one when the Bison defense jumped offside on fourth-and-inches in the final minute of the first half, keeping alive a Wahama drive that eventually scored a TD with 16 seconds remaining in the half.
"We've got to cut out the penalties and turnovers,'' Sawyer said, "and make more stops on defense.''
Buffalo did befuddle the Wahama defense on occasions with a short passing game - either screens to the opposite side of where quarterback Levi Jordan rolled out, or quick pop passes over the middle a fraction after the ball was snapped.
Jordan completed 16 of 20 attempts for 201 yards and one TD, a 16-yard hookup with running back Jordan Tucker on a screen pass.
"We've played teams that probably throw the ball more than they did,'' Cromley said. "But what they did is throw the screens and dump passes, which made it tough for us and kept their offense moving.''
Wahama's victory on Friday marked its 31st straight in the regular season and the program posted its third consecutive 10-0 regular season record.
The White Falcons seniors are united in their quest to return to the Super Six state championships in Wheeling, where Wahama appeared in 2010 before losing in the Class A finals to Wheeling Central.
"Wheeling is our goal,'' said senior fullback Zack Wamsley. "We hope to go all the way this year.''
Wamsley said it didn't matter who the Falcons drew in the first round, or subsequent rounds if it came to that.
"If it's [Buffalo] again, that's fine with us,'' Wamsley said immediately after Friday's game. "We'll play just as tough as we did tonight.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.