In a game that quickly became a duel between two athletic quarterbacks, senior kicker Brogen Baker’s 22-yard field goal as time ran out gave Boyd-Buchanan a scintillating, 43-41, non-district victory Saturday night over Red Bank before a small crowd at Finley Stadium.
It was the season opener for both teams, but they played like it was mid-November.
Not even a heavy rain at game’s end could dampen young Baker’s heroic moment.
“I’m everybody’s best friend right now,” he said.
Red Bank went ahead, 41-34, on quarterback Mike Robinson’s 54-yard touchdown jaunt with 6:34 left in the game, which was delayed from Friday night by inclement weather at Red Bank.
The Lions drove 80 yards in three plays to wipe out a one-point deficit.
The Buccaneers, who went 12-2 and reached the Class 2A state semifinals in 2012, came right back with a 59-yard, nine-play march capped by Austin Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:49 remaining.
Boyd-Buchanan trailed, 41-40, and the Lions stuffed a two-point run attempt, forcing coach Grant Reynolds’ hand.
He called for an onside kick, knowing the odds are long for a kicking team to make the recovery.
“That’s why you practice that stuff,” Reynolds said. “And we practiced it this week.”
Bucs senior Ryan Watkins came out of a pile of players with the football at the Red Bank 47.
What was going through Reynolds’ mind at that hectic moment?
“We had to go down and score,” he said.
Boyd-Buchanan faced a third-and-seven from the Red Bank 26.
Bucs quarterback Jim Cardwell, who went 16-of-21 for 175 yards and two touchdowns, threw to a cutting receiver and the ball was knocked away, but Lions defender Will Davis was called for pass interference.
Boyd-Buchanan had a first down at the Lions’ 13 with 1:18 left.
Pope gained 3 yards to the 10. Cardwell got 5 on the next play. Cardwell was stopped for no gain on third down.
That set up Baker’s moment in the spotlight with three seconds on the scoreboard clock. He was going to win it or lose it.
“I knew the wind was at my back,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything but that kick. I knew I had to do it for our team to win. Earlier on a point-after, they hit me but I still made the kick. They were big and fast, but I trusted our line to block them and the snap and hold were really good.”
Up to that time, Red Bank coach E.K. Slaughter’s Lions had the upper hand.
“It was the most fun I’ve had in a while until the last three seconds,” Slaughter said. “I don’t think anybody lost this game. Boyd-Buchanan just won it. If I don’t throw the ball going into the half and we recover the onside kick we win by two touchdowns. But that’s not the case. You live and learn the hard way.”
Cardwell and Robinson, both seniors, were spectacular.
Cardwell put up 312 yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on runs of 1 and 7 yards and threw scoring passes of 26 and 3 yards to Austin Jackson and Damaris Macon, respectively.
He rushed for 137 yards and passed for 175, leading the Bucs to 410 yards of offense.
“That’s just how the ball rolls sometimes,” Cardwell said. “Coach Reynolds told us at halftime this game would come down to who had the most heart. I’m very proud to be a Buc right now because that’s how we play.”
Robinson riddled the Bucs’ defense for 190 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of 6, 18 and 54 yards. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 83 yards with an interception.
Red Bank punished the Bucs’ defense for 384 yards rushing and with Robinson’s passing thrown in the Lions had 467 yards of offense.
“I felt like the game was coming down to the quarterbacks,” Robinson said. “That played a big part in which team won. I feel I can do better and I have to limit my turnovers. Limit turnovers and we’ll win a lot more games.”
The Lions, who are coming off a 4-6 season in which they lost their final two games to East Hamilton and Tyner, can’t dwell on Saturday’s loss for long. They return to action on Thursday with a game at long-time rival Soddy-Daisy.
“This is a big pill to swallow,” said Robinson, one of the last Red Bank players out of the locker room. “We have to come back Monday and get ready for Soddy-Daisy.”
Red Bank’s Darrius Akridge had a big night as well, rushing for 111 yards on just seven carries. He ripped off a 65-yard scamper – the game’s longest run – in the second quarter to trigger the Lions’ 81-yard, four-play drive that produced an 18-13 lead.
Frunsez Kendricks capped the quick-strike march with a 9-yard scoring run.
Robinson got the scoring parade going with his first touchdown in the first quarter.
Cardwell answered with a 26-yard scoring strike to Austin Jackson and the game was tied at 6-6 after one period of play.
Robinson rambled 18 yards for a score to start the second quarter, Cardwell countered from 1-yard out, Kendricks scored and Cardwell hit Damaris Macon with a 3-yard scoring pass and the Bucs had a 21-18 advantage at halftime.
Macon caught six passes for 38 yards; Ethan Cochran had two catches for 37 yards and Jackson snagged three for 36.
Cardwell completed his first seven passes and would have had an eighth straight, but senior Chris Lyon dropped the throw while wide open in the right flat. Cardwell was 13-of-14 for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
“Both quarterbacks played their guts out,” Slaughter said. “I’ll go to war any day with Mike Robinson. He’s a great player and I love him to death. He’s going to have a great season.
“After the onside kick, I was thinking that if we could just sack that little sucker (Cardwell) one time we had a chance. We just couldn’t get to him. Both quarterbacks played really good, but there were a lot of hidden heroes in the game, too.”
Robinson rushed for 99 yards and threw for 50 in the first two quarters, but his interception – Cochran picked him off – came with 1:15 left in the half and came at the Bucs’ 34.
On the next play, Cardwell was hurried, but just threw the ball up and Cochran beat the defender for a 31-yard gainer. Cardwell then found Macon open in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Bucs up, 21-18, with 44 seconds left in the second quarter.
“That was two great quarterbacks out there tonight,” Reynolds said. “Their kid was elusive and hard to tackle. We had a hard time getting him down, but I wouldn’t trade our number one (Cardwell) for any of them.”
Cardwell’s 7-yard scoring run pushed capped a 75-yard, 12-play drive opening the third quarter and pushed the Bucs’ lead to 27-18. The Bucs converted two third-down situations and Cardwell broke free for a 32-yard scamper on a fourth-and-one from the Bucs’ 46.
Red Bank wouldn’t go away, though.
The Lions scored back-to-back drives – Shawn Caldwell went in from the 1 in the third quarter and Kendricks’ touchdown in the fourth put Red Bank up 33-27 with 10:35 left.
Pope’s 7-yard scoring burst gave the Bucs a 34-33 lead and set up the last 6:34 of the game.
“This says a lot about our kids and how they’re willing to fight through adversity,” Reynolds said. “It’s a building block for what we want to do this year. Our goals are to win the region and play for a state championship. This is a good start.”
The Bucs stay on the road for their next game at McMinn Central.
Boyd-Buchanan 6 15 6 16 — 43
Red Bank 6 12 7 16— 41
RB – Mike Robinson 6 run (kick failed), 9:42
BB – Austin Jackson 26 pass from Jim Cardwell (kick failed), 5:13
RB – Robinson 18 run (kick failed), 11:41
BB – Cardwell 1 run (Brogen Baker kick), 5:39
RB – Frunsez Kendricks 9 run (run failed), 4:23
BB – Damaris Macon 3 pass from Cardwell (Cardwell run), 0:44
BB – Cardwell 7 run (kick failed, bad snap), 8:14
RB – Shawn Caldwell 1 run (Christian Velazquez kick), 5:05
RB – Kendricks 13 run (Robinson run), 10:35
BB – Cameron Pope 7 run (Baker kick), 7:32
RB – Robinson 54 run (Darrius Akridge run), 6:34
BB – Jackson 1 run (run failed), 1:49
BB – FG Baker, 22, 0:00
First Downs 24 19
Rushes-Yards 48-235 35-384
Passing Yards 175 83
Total Yards 410 467
Com.-Att.-Int. 16-21-0 8-11-1
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Punts.-Avg. 3-28.3 1-31
Penalties-Yds. 6-42 12-103
RUSHING — Boyd-Buchanan: Jim Cardwell 22-137, Austin Jackson 14-54, Cameron Pope 9-43, Jeremy Borders 1-6, Jake Harden 2-minus 4; Red Bank: Mike Robinson 17-190, Darrius Akridge 7-111, Shawn Caldwell 7-58, Frunsez Kendricks 4-25.
PASSING — Boyd-Buchanan: Jim Cardwell 16-21-175-0; Red Bank: Mike Robinson 8-11-83-1.
RECEIVING — Boyd-Buchanan: Damaris Macon 6-38, Ethan Cochran 2-37, Austin Jackson 3-36, Cameron Pope 3-29, Skyler Anderson 2-23, Chris Lyon 1-12; Red Bank: Shawn Caldwell 4-43, Bray Wilson 1-27, Jacob Gambrell 3-13.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)