BUFORD — Sadly, it won’t count for anything more than bragging rights for either Buford or Archer.
But the Wolves’ thrilling 29-28 win in overtime over the Tigers will certainly be remembered for a good long while as one of the best games to ever be played at Tom Riden Stadium.
Treyton Rank hauled in a Jarvis Evans 2-point conversion pass in the first overtime for the game-winner. That came after the Wolves (5-0) converted two 4th-and-1 plays, including just moments before from the 1 when Elijah Turner slammed through a Tigers defensive wall to set up the game-winning play.
Evans, who was just 4-for-10 passing on the night for a dismal 19 yards, said there was no hesitation on the call.
“Coach (Bryant) Appling already had a play called and we were ready to go,” Evans said. “I didn’t have that great of a game so I’m glad they gave me a chance there. Trey made a great catch.”
Rank said he was ready when he heard the play call.
“We practice that play a lot and it worked just like we practice it,” Rank said. “With all those people here, I just told myself I have to make that catch. It was a great feeling.”
Appling said he was ready to end things, one way or another.
“We were tired and gassed and we had some guys nicked up a bit,” he said. “I didn’t want to keep playing. We wanted to end it right there.
“We had run the ball in that situation almost every time this season so I felt that was a good time to pull it out. Trey is a tremendous athlete and just made a great play.”
While the offense may get the final salute, it was the Buford defense that was the difference. After getting gashed early by the Tigers powerful rushing attack for 137 yards on two-plus drives to build a 14-0 lead, the Wolves hunkered down over the final three quarters.
They yielded just 61 yards on the ground the rest of the way. They also held Archer quarterback Carter Peevy in check for most of the game. He finished with 128 yards passing and 30 yards rushing but most of that came on the Tigers final drive and overtime.
“Our defense played an outstanding game once we figured out what they were doing,” Appling said. “
But Peevy engineered an 86-yard effort over the final four minutes of regulation that ended with his 1-yard keeper to tie the game with just 10 seconds left.
The Tigers (3-2) started the first overtime and got a 4-yard touchdown run from Renaldo Spivey for a 28-21 lead.
Twice it looked like the Wolves were finished facing 4th-and-1 plays. But Gabe Ervin, who finished with 125 yards on 17 carries, converted the first fourth down and Turner the second.
“Just a tremendous win for us,” Appling said. “This should really help us grow up a little bit. But we still also made way too many mistakes. We still have a lot of things to work on.”
The ending was a far cry from the opening 12:12 of the game.
The Archer defense set the tone early in the first quarter stuffing Buford’s first two drives yielding just 19 yards and one first down with one sack and two tackles for loss.
The Archer offense then pounded the ball right at the Buford defense using a 15-play, 77-yard drive in just over five minutes, capped by a Schmari Campbell 1-yard TD run to take a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers needed just three plays on their second drive, with Jordan Swain rumbling 64 yards on a 3rd-and-3 dive play, breaking through a Buford run blitz for a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
It looked like a potential rout was underway. But the Buford offense, behind a renewed effort from the offensive line, finally got some traction on its third drive.
“We just told the guys to settle down and go back to our base sets and what we do best,” Appling said. “Once we did that, we began to get some momentum.”
Turner crashed up the middle for 19 yards and Ervin blasted up the middle for 17 yards to advance into Archer territory for the first time. Ervin then exploded for a 33-yard run to the Archer 5 and scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-7.
The Buford defense forced an Archer fumble but the Tigers forced another Buford punt. The Wolves defense answered again stuffing the Tigers at their own 1 and the Wolves’ special teams produced the biggest play of the first half.
On the ensuing punt, T Lee serpentined his way for 39 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14 with 6:01 left in the half. The defenses then took control again forcing three punts and the end of the half combined.
It only took 8 seconds in the third quarter for the Wolves to finally get their first lead. The Tigers misplayed a reverse on the opening kickoff of the second half and Buford’s Carson Garrison picked up the loose ball and scooted 2-yards for an easy TD for and a 21-14 lead.
It stayed that way until the frantic final minute.
Despite already knocking off the defending Class 7A state champions in Milton, Evans said this may be the type of game the Wolves really needed.
“This will most definitely give us a lot of confidence,” Evans said. “To beat a team like that, I think that shows us what we can do.”
A -- Campbell 1 run (Waters kick) 7-0, 2:51
A -- Swain 64 run (Waters kick) 14-0, 11:48
B -- Ervin 5 run (Olsen kick) 14-7, 9:47
B -- T Lee 39 punt return (Olsen kick) 14-145, 6:01
B -- Garrison 2 fumble return (Olsen kick) 21-14, 11:52
A -- Peevy 1 run (Waters kick) 21-21, 0:10
A -- Spivey 4 run (Waters kick) 28-21
B -- Turner 1 run (Rank pass) 29-28