Bucs Win First Playoff Game
When the sun went down, so did the temperature at Funderburg Stadium Friday night. But neither cold nor dark of night stopped the fans from filling the stands. And nothing stopped the Bucs as they dominated both offensively and defensively and kicked off their playoff run with a first round victory against the Hononegah Indians.
The Bucs got off to a good start; Tyler Pearse ran the opening kick back to their 44 yard line. Steve Golubski went to work as quarterback. A four yard run by Adam Wells got them across midfield. On first down from the Hononegah 44, Tyler Pearse got the call again and raced into the end zone. An illegal block penalty called the ball back to the 29 yard line. However, Golubski completed his first pass of the night, a nine yard throw to Brandon Smaha at the 15 yard line. The Bucs got as close as the Hononegah 8 before the Indians defense stiffened up. The Bucs had to settle for a 27 yard field goal, Jason Schwartz’ first for the year, and with 7:26 left in the first quarter the Bucs were up 3 – 0.
The Bucs defense started on all cylinders. Hononegah’s first possession went 16 yards in the wrong direction before Ben Salley grabbed an interception at the Indians 41 yard line. Matt Barr came in as quarterback and the Bucs offense took quick advantage. On third down and two, Tyler Pearse ran it all the way into the end zone for a touchdown. Schwartz’ kick was good and the Bucs were up by 10.
Hononegah was more successful on their next possession. Sean Michael Wiley rushed 10 yards for a first down at the 45 yard line and then pushed into Belvidere territory. However, that was as far as they could go and the Indians had to punt on fourth down and ten. Barr was back at QB, but was unable to connect on two passes. The Bucs had to punt it away on fourth and five.
As time was running out in the first quarter, the Bucs defense struck again. Casey Gustafson sacked David King for a seven yard loss. On the next play, the Indians lost the ball at the snap and Matt Stringini came up with it. The Bucs went back to work on offense from the Hononegah 17 yard line. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to capitalize. A flag on Belvidere started pushed them back to the 25. They were unable to complete a pass and on fourth down, Barr was flushed out of the pocket and ran up to the 22. The Indians took over on downs. Their offensive was short lived, lasting less than 30 seconds. On third down, Ben Salley intercepted the pass and ran it back 35 yards into the end zone. While a penalty on Belvidere would negate the touchdown, the Bucs had the ball again on the Indians 23 yard line.
Without any success in the air, the Bucs went back to their ground game. Brandon Smaha got the call and took it down to the 14 yard line. Matt Stringini blasted up the middle to the 7. On second down from the 1 yard line, the front line pushed Hononegah back into their own end zone and Smaha scored their second touchdown of the night. Jason Schwartz’ kick was good and the Bucs were up by 17. Hononegah went three and out, forced to punt it away. Adam Wells picked it up and ran it back 58 yards to put the Bucs up by another touchdown. Jason Schwartz kickoff was fumbled and Cris Collier recovered on the Indians 32 yard line. The Bucs offense stayed on the ground. Matt Stringini shot down 21 yards, stopped by Casey Ryczek holding onto his jersey. However, he scored on the next play from four yards out. Jason Schwartz point after was good and the Bucs had a 31 point lead.
While Hononegah was down, they weren’t out completely. Starting from their 28 yard line, the Indians put together a pretty decent drive. King connected with Mike George for a 31 yard gain, stopped by Ben Salley at the 12 yard line. However, that was as close as they would get. On fourth down from the Bucs 23 yard line, King went back to pass, looking for George in the end zone. However Ryan Gorham was waiting for it and broke up the play. The Bucs took over on downs.
With two minutes left in the half, the Bucs went back to work. Brandon Smaha gained 11 yards on first down. Golubski’s pass to Matt Stringini was good for another 13 yards. With time running out, Golubski went back to pass and Nick Swartz came up with the ball. The Bucs defense clamped down. On fourth down and two, Hononegah took a time out, but decided to punt it away. The Bucs took a knee to finish the half and the Bucs went into the locker room with a 31 – 0 lead.
Hononegah was unable to get it out of their side of the field on their opening drive of the second half and they were forced to punt it away. The Bucs were forced to start their first drive from their own 11 yard line. However, they didn’t stay deep very long. On second down, Adam Wells exploded into open field, getting all the way down to the Indians 10 yard line before being tackled from behind by Justin Kinser. The Indians defense held firm, but they weren’t able to stop the Bucs indefinitely. Brandon Smaha got the ball inside the one yard line, good enough for a fresh set of downs. On the next play, he leapt over the line for a touchdown. The kick after was wide right and the Bucs had a 37 – 0 lead.
Hononegah came out passing on their next possession. A quick pass to George was good enough for a first down at the Indians 47 yard line. Another pass to Andrew Melms got them into Bucs territory. However, Scott Rice picked off the next pass at the Bucs 23 yard line. Golubski’s quick flip to Nate Byers was good enough for a seven yard gain. Then Matt Stringini struck again with a 44 yard dash to the Hononegah 12 yard line. Byers took the next four hand-offs, punching down finally into the end zone. Jason Schwartz’ kick was good and the Bucs were up 44 – 0 with a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter.
Hononegah was finally able to get on the board in the fourth quarter with a 31 yard connection to Nathan Gillette who ran it in for a touchdown. The point after was good and the final score was 44 – 7. The Bucs ran the clock down to the final four minutes and the defense held Hononegah out of the end zone again.
With a convincing 37 – 28 win over Guilford, Harlem returns to Funderburg Stadium Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Ryan Jensen is expected to be out after suffering a broken finger in the Guilford game. However, junior quarterback Mike Rizzio was able to put together four scoring drives after Jensen went out. The Bucs defense will have its hands full with a Harlem offense that is potent on the ground as well as in the air. The game starts at 1:00 pm.