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Buffalo outscored the Ava Bears 24-6 in the second half here last Friday night and got within a touchdown of an upset victory in the first game of the three-game district schedule.
The Bears held on to win the game, 43-38, but it took some last minute strategy to secure the win.
Leading 43-36, the Bears found themselves out of downs with 7.5 seconds left on the clock at the Bears’ 26-yard line.
Sitting on a 4th-down-and-8 situation, the Ava coaching staff realized a change in possession would stop the clock and give Buffalo time to set up a final play.
Ava head coach Dan Swofford said it was offensive coordinator Brett Mitchell’s call to have quarterback Ben Loge run around in the backfield until time expired and take the safety to prevent the Bison from getting their hands on the ball again.
“I told Brett it was the best call he made all night,” Swofford said.
In reality, the Bears did not lack for offense Friday night, as indicated by the 43 points put on the board and 494 total yards of offense. But Buffalo, too, had a good offensive night and came very close to embarrassing the Bears on Senior Night.
With the win, Ava improved its record to 6-2 with a road trip to Rogersville coming up this Friday night. The Bears will finish the regular schedule on Oct. 28 at Mtn. Grove.
The Bears are 4-2 in conference and 1-0 in district play.
With just 5 minutes off the first quarter game clock the Bears held a 14-0 lead and at the end of the first quarter it was 14-6. With two second-quarter touchdowns the Bears were leading 30-6 with 2½ minutes left in the first half and it looked as if the Bears would coast to an easy win.
But the Bison had other thoughts.
With 1:39 left in the half, Buffalo scored to make it 30-14, but the Bears answered before the end of the half when lineman Chance Deal lined up in the Ava backfield and scored on a 3-yard run, and the Bears led 37-14 at halftime.
Ava’s first score of the game came at 8:29 in the first quarter on a 3-yard keeper by quarterback Loge to put the Bears up 6-0. Loge’s PAT kick was no good.
Buffalo ran three plays and punted, and on Ava’s first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, Kyle Clinkingbeard broke away for a 70-yard sprint down the right sideline for a touchdown. Clinkingbeard also ran for the 2-point conversion to put the Bears up 14-0 with 7:05 left in the first period.
Buffalo cut the Ava lead to 14-6 on a 7-yard touchdown pass play from quarterback Austin Pinckney to Willie Able with 27 seconds left in the quarter. Ava blocked the extra-point kick.
Clinkingbeard, who racked up 325 rushing yards on 36 carries Friday night, scored again at 6:23 in the second quarter and Loge’s kick put the Bears up 21-6.
With Buffalo backed up to the Bison 13-yard line on fourth down and the punter standing in the end zone, the long snap sailed over his head and bounced out of the end zone for an Ava safety making the score 23-6 with 5:12 left in the second quarter.
A one-yard run by Clinkingbeard and the kick by Loge would put the Bears up 30-6 with 2:28 left, but Buffalo would chip into the Ava lead with a 39-yard run by Able with 1:39 left. Able added the 2-point conversion to make it 30-14.
Deal’s touchdown before the half ended gave the Bears a 23-point lead at intermission. Loge kicked the PAT a second time after the Bears were flagged for procedure. The additional five yards was not a problem for the Ava sophomore quarterback/kicker.
Buffalo scored with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter on a 62-yard run by Able and the 2-point conversion to trim the Ava lead to 37-20.
Two minutes later, Ava would score for the final time on a 19-yard pass play from Loge to Chase Willis. Again, Loge’s first PAT kick was good, but was negated by an Ava procedure penalty. The second try failed and the score stood 43-20.
With 22 seconds left in the third period, Buffalo made it 43-28 on a 3-yard touchdown run and the 2-point conversion run, both by Donovan Kramer.
Buffalo would score again, and pull within one touchdown with 8:42 left in the game on a one-yard touchdown run by Cody McGuire and the 2-point conversion run by Kramer.
That made the score 43-36, and the safety with no time left on the clock made the final score 43-38.
Ava had 416 yards rushing and Loge was 4-for-7 passing for 78 yards.
Ava ran two freshmen out of the backfield Friday night. Colton Akers carried eight times for 37 yards and Kane Thompson had 30 yards on three carries.
Jesse Johnson and Kevin Philpott each had a pass reception for the Bears, and Philpott also had an interception.
Loge also completed a short screen pass to Clinkingbeard that the speedster turned into a 31-yard gain.