By Jim Laise - email@example.com
QUICKSBURG -- Winless Stonewall Jackson put up a spirited Homecoming fight Friday night, but could not pull off the win as Buffalo Gap smothered the Generals in 28-20 Shenandoah District victory.
The Generals (0-7) had at least two chances to tie or go ahead late in the game that was marred by penalties, but could not make enough plays in the final 1:36 for the victory.
The Bison (2-5) thwarted the Generals at their own 45 and the Stonewall 48 to quench the win and end their own three-game losing streak.
After a disheartening 50-22 defeat at the hands of East Rockingham Oct. 11, Stonewall coach Dick Krol said that "All we need is 11 screaming kids who like to play football and we're going to win games."
Following this setback, he said much the same, although he did see signs of his squad breaking from its funk.
"I still feel that way and we haven't found 11. We find 11 and we win this game tonight," Krol said. "We're so young and we just don't have enough kids who know how to play."
Stonewall, playing with 19 varsity members on the field, certainly made enough plays to keep it interesting.
Not only were they outnumbered by their foe, but they lost the services of senior Nathan Jones, who was taken to a Harrisonburg hospital because of concerns regarding a back injury.
Krol said he could not be specific about the injury suffered by the 6-foot-3 wide receiver until further tests occurred, but he did say Jones was "speaking and moving his extremities on the field."
Whether it was the injury to Jones, the Generals found resolve from there on out and certainly were a different team for the rest of the game.
Stonewall trailed Buffalo Gap 14-0 at the time of the 15-minute delay, but outscored the Bison 20-14 the rest of the way.
Buffalo Gap built its first half lead mainly on the arm of quarterback Tyler Wilcher in the first half. The 5-9 senior completed 7 of 11 passes with one interception in the first 24 minutes. Those completions accounted for 134 yards and one touchdown.
Particularly damaging was Buffalo Gap tight end Scott Kiser, who drew in five balls for 90 yards and a touchdown.
But Krol's team figured out a way to better cover the 6-4, 220-pounder in the second half, and their effort was noticeable on the scoreboard.
"Well, we finally covered him," Krol said. "That was our design at the beginning of the game, but we weren't successful.
Stonewall quarterback Daniel Buhl threw a pass that was tipped by teammate Nathan Miller and intercepted by Wilcher on the play on which Jones was injured.
The Bison took over and seemed intent on going up by three touchdowns, but key defensive plays by Miller in his own territory held Buffalo Gap at bay.
With the ball on the Stonewall 25, Bison quarterback Wilcher tried to get into the end zone on four successive passes.
Miller batted two of the opportunities away, followed by a sack by teammates Hunter Smootz and Dyllen Handel. On fourth down, Miller, a sophomore, picked off Wilcher to end the drive and the half.
After a conservative first half, the two offenses spent the next 16 minutes running up and down the field.
Yet another defensive play by Stonewall stymied the winning team. Matthew Murphy recovered a fumbled snap to give the Generals the ball at the Bison 37.
Aided by a couple of penalties on Buffalo Gap, the ball was at the 15 when running back Derrick Smith, playing with a sore ankle, plunged off-tackle for the Generals' first score. The two-point play was stopped.
Using running back Lucas Vetter as a battering ram, Buffalo Gap used 17 plays and 7:26 to usher in its first TD of the second half. Along the way, they converted two fourth downs, one of which came at its own 28.
Wilcher found Kyser for a 15-yard scoring toss and Liam Benbow added the extra point for a 21-6 advantage with 2:46 to go.
Stonewall's Ryan Summers came up with a key 14-yard run to get the ball to midfield, and two plays later Stonewall quarterback Buhl dialed his own number. He took the snap and streaked 42 yards. The Generals had struck in just 2:20. Again, the two-point try was stopped.
"Those two two-point plays hurt us," said Krol. "We make one of them, it might be a different game."
Stonewall did itself no favors with a poor kickoff which Buffalo gap fell on at the Generals' 35.
Near the end of the third quarter, a holding penalty and dropped pass slowed the Bison, but back-to-back penalties on the Generals moved the ball to the seven. From there Austin Perry bowled over for the score. Kicker Benbow made it 28-12 with 11:08 left in the game.
Benbow's kick was short and Stonewall had to travel just 38 yards for the score. A fourth-down conversion helped, while Miller scored from the 7. Buhl went for the two-point conversion and 28-20 score.
Summers got the ball back for Stonewall with an interception at his own 40, but Stonewall stalled.
A quarterback sneak was stopped by the Generals on the Bison's next possession, but Miller fumbled the ball into the hands of Kiser with 19.4 seconds left.
Kiser caught just three balls in the second half, but finished with eight overall for 125 yards for the game.