A block early in the game foreshadowed the outcome of Buena Vista’s 20-14 victory over Florence in Friday’s battle of the unbeatens.
A Huskie wideout blocked a Demon defender on the near sideline as a running play developed moving away from the far hashmark.
The Florence player had a bewildered look on his face as he bounced hard backward from the line of scrimmage a couple yards. The look quickly changed to an annoyed scowl that the Buena Vista defender was still standing.
The shoulderpad-cracking hitting would continue to build through the game. The annoyed scowls would grow to costly frustration as the hitting wore on.
Fastforward to crunch time – when composure counts – down the stretch of an evenly contested and very physical football game.
Florence was flagged three times in the final quarter for personal fouls, each time killing drives. The last one – in the final minute – set up a desperation fourth-and-30 incompletion in between three Buena Vista defenders.
The final play turned over the ball on downs to the Demons before QB Haden Camp’s single bark of “hut” and a knee ended the regular season at 9-0 for Buena Vista as Tri-Peaks League champions.
Buena Vista “set the tone with the way our defense played. We have been in some tough games during the season and just kept grinding away. Composure is a great description,” Demons coach Matt Flavin said.
Florence ended the game with seven costly penalties for 55 yards, BV just two for 20.
It’s been 21 years since BV has defeated Florence, Flavin said, noting they hadn’t played them every year, “but when we have, it hasn’t been pretty for us until Friday night.”
Defense ruled the battle for field position in the scoreless opening quarter and the first half of the second.
Then Florence, which entered averaging 51 points a game, drove 92 yards in nine plays before scoring on a 10-yard run with 5:46 left in the first half.
Buena Vista trailed 7-0, but for just 11 seconds.
Enter Orion Herrie. He picked up a low kick at the Demon 30, sprinted diagonally across the field and up the left sideline as a roar arose from the stands growing louder with each 10 yards marker all the way for a 70-yard kick return. Tam Flowers’ first of four kicks tied the game at 7 with 5:35 left.
“The biggest play may have been on special teams after Florence scored,” Flavin said. “As well as the two field goals, the coaches and players had to stop the offensive coordinator from going for it on the goal line and kick. Ha ha.”
Three plays later, Herrie picked off a third-down pass from the 20 and returned it 17 yards to the 10.
Florence’s defense was up to the task and four plays later, Flowers kicked the first of his two field goals, this a 21-yarder for a 10-7 lead with 2:09 left in the half.
Late in the third quarter, Buena Vista began its third scoring drive on its 38. A sliding catch by Herrie on third-and-8 set up a first down at the Huskie 21.
Not to be outdone, Tucker Storms pulled in a sliding catch just inside the 10 for first-and-goal.
Three plays later, Flowers’ 22-yard field goal gave BV a 13-7 lead with 11:00 left on the clock.
Three plays and a punt later, BV had the ball back with 9:55 left.
On fourth-and-1 from their own 23, Camp’s signal calling induced Florence to jump offsides for a Demon first down.
On the ensuing play, Camp sprinted up the left sideline to the Huskie 24 and a personal foul tacked on the end of the play pushed the ball to the 9.
A 7-yard Camp run up the middle set up a sneak into the end zone behind center Seth Moss from the 2 for a 20-7 lead with 6:28 left.
Florence answered quickly with a halfback pass from Jacob Kennedy to a wide open Xavier Martinez for a 45-yard TD that cut the lead to 20-14 with 4:30 left.
Seven plays and three timeouts later, the Demons were forced to punt as the 2 minute mark approached.
Florence picked up a first down, then moved backwards as the clock ticked away.
The second of two quarterback sacks by Elijah Evans, pushed Florence back as the clock ticked under a minute. Evans led the defense with 11 tackles including three for a loss in addition to the sacks.
On third-and-16 with 42 seconds left, Florence was flagged for another unsportsmanlike penalty that set up fourth-and-31 with 29 seconds remaining.
The desperation pass was incomplete and when Bv took over on downs, Camp took the final knee to seal the victory.
“We stopped a high-powered offense dead in its tracks and that isn’t an easy task,” Flavin said. “Our offense controlled the ball and clock. They made plays when we needed to and stayed ahead of the chains most of the time. All we can do is improve each week and we did this week.”
Buena Vista has a week off while it waits for playoff seeding announcements late this weekend.
“We will keep working to get better and hopefully give ourselves a chance to keep playing deep into the playoffs,” Flavin said. “We have an idea of who we might face, but won’t know until Sunday.”