By Brian Eller
WOODSTOCK -- One year ago, Central suffered a heartbreaking loss at Buffalo Gap, allowing 28 points while managing just 6. The loss was devastating to the Falcons' playoff hopes at the time, culminating with the defeat that kept Central sitting at home during the postseason. It was the kind of blowout that's not easy to forget, the one that sticks with a team for 12 months until they have a chance at redemption.
On Friday night, the Falcons got their shot at redemption and behind quarterback Matt Sherfey and wide receiver Sean Semones, they didn't miss. Sherfey threw for 279 yards, 176 to Semones, as Central celebrated homecoming night with a 35-7 win over Buffalo Gap.
"We didn't forget about last year's game," Sherfey said. "It was embarrassing, the way we played there and that loss really stuck with us. We were overconfident and came out flat, so we were waiting for this one tonight and I think we showed it."
Just a week after suffering their worst loss of the season at the hands of Riverheads, the Falcons adjusted their practice schedule in the days leading up to Friday's game. Daily practices were moved to two hours long each day, with conditioning drills and a higher intensity marking each session. It was a move that coach Mike Yew promised would pay dividends come game time and it didn't take long for that to come to fruition.
With time winding down in the first quarter, Central's rushing attack, led by Seth Bauserman, was finding it difficult to churn out yards against a tough Bison front line, forcing the Falcons to adjust to the passing game and Sherfey's right arm. There they found the production they were looking for, as Sherfey drove the offense 86 yards, culminating with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Carter, giving Central a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"I know looking at the stats show we're a pass-happy team," Sherfey said, "but really we just focus on what's working for us on a particular night and tonight we were able to find success through the air."
Despite the scoring drive, both offenses stalled in the second quarter, as the teams combined for five routine punts and a turnover. The final punt of the half, however, was anything but routine.
As Central punted deep in its own territory, the ball hit a Buffalo Gap player in the shoulder pad, allowing Central's Logan Hutchinson to scoop it up and run nearly 50 yards for the touchdown. Amid the celebration, though, referees soon confirmed the ball couldn't be advanced on what was ruled a muff punt, meaning the touchdown wouldn't stand, but the Falcons would keep possession with under two minutes left in the half.
That was all Central needed, as a few plays later Bauserman found the end zone on a 1-yard run up the middle, once again giving Central a two-touchdown lead heading into halftime.
While the second quarter was littered with punts and turnovers, the start of the second half, on the other hand, saw just one punt and three touchdowns scored, as Sherfey and Semones began to light up the scoreboard. In the third quarter, Semones had four catches for 71 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass from Sherfey to balloon the Falcons' lead to three touchdowns. The designed play was a fade route to the 5-foot-8 Semones, who was able to separate himself from the defender for the touchdown.
"I knew it was man coverage with the defender, so I told coach to give me the ball," Semones said. "It was a two-step move, jab, spin off of him and I almost lost the ball in the lights, but I jumped up and was able to come down with it."
Not even a Buffalo Gap touchdown to answer could rattle the Falcons. After Bison running back Derek McCutcheon punched in a 5-yard touchdown run, Central responded right away, taking the ball 72 yards as Bauserman finished off the drive with his second 1-yard score of the night, securing the win for the Falcons.
"I was really happy with the way we finished tonight," Yew said. "We had a really good week of practice and I told them this is what would happen if they put in the hard work. We've still got a shot at [the playoffs] so we're going to continue to work hard and get ready for Page [County]."