Boyd Buchanan Into DII-AA BlueCross Bowl

Bucs Drop Davidson Academy, 36-24, To Earn State Title Clash

  • Saturday, November 18, 2023
  • James Beach

Boyd Buchanan head coach Gary Rankin has what he calls his "pull a rabbit out of the hat plays" and legendary coach has utilized his fair share of them through his 41-year march to 488 career wins.

Friday night, with Davidson Academy standing between him and a 32nd state championship game appearance, he may have pulled the biggest rabbit of his career out of the hat. Knotted up in a tug-of-war battle with the talented Bears from Nashville, Rankin came out of the halftime dressing room with a plan to unleash the biggest and baddest Buc he had, turning the Bucs fate over to senior Jaylon Sanderfer.

And man did Sanderfer come through.

Just five weeks removed from tight rope surgery to repair a torn ligament in his ankle, Sanderfer returned to the Buc backfield with a vengeance, ripping off three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to lift Boyd Buchanan to a 36-24 victory in the DII-AA TSSAA state semifinals. Boyd Buchanan (13-0) will meet CPA, a 36-16 winner over Franklin Road Academy in the other semifinal, for the Gold Ball at Finley Stadium in an 11 a.m. kick on Thursday, November 30th in the first of nine BlueCross Bowl state title affairs.

"Yeah this one will go down as one of my top three biggest surprises. One of my most special teams for sure. This wasn't supposed to happen this quickly. No one expected this. I'm not that good of a coach, this one is all them. They pulled this together," said a happy Rankin amidst a wild celebration Friday night.

Despite 17 state titles that might say otherwise, Rankin and staff put together a game plan that gave the Bucs a chance against a special Davidson Academy squad that quite frankly had more talent. But the one dude who could match up with anything the Bears had going for them was Sanderfer, and when the Bears reeled off 17 unanswered points to erase an early 10-0 Bucs' lead, Rankin turned to his big hoss.

"I really wasn't even sure if I was going to let him play. He's a college player and I didn't want to do anything that might hurt that, but the doctor cleared him., We held him off as long as we could, but we got to the point where we had to have him. He went out there with a mindset he was going to win it by himself if he had to," Rankin admitted.

With Boyd Buchanan's usually stingy defense searching for answers against Davidson's big offensive line and sophomore tailback Caden Stroud, the right answer was Sanderfer. Stroud ran it nine times in a 65-yard drive to open the second half, scoring on a four-yard run to put the Bears up 17-10 with 5:45 left. At that point, the Bears had amassed 270 yards of offense to Boyd Buchanan's 145 and all the momentum sat on the visitor's sideline. A big kickoff return by Jeri Young took the Bucs all the way to Davidson's 26, and Sandefer's first carry came on a key third down run, finding the end zone from 21 yards out to tie it back up just 59 seconds later.

"It's all about fighting through the adversity. I'm blessed. I knew I was going to get back in there eventually and the coaches told me we need you this week. I was ready to get the job done," said Sanderfer, who finished with 13 second half carries for 107 yards.

After holding the Bears to their only three-and-out on the night, ran it five times in a 53-yard drive, scoring on another third down carry from the 10 to give Boyd Buchanan the lead back at 24-17. And when Davidson Academy turned back to Stroud on an 80-yard march which the sophomore toted it seven times for 75 of the yards, including another four-yard TD run, it was back to even at 24-all with just 5:41 remaining.

"We knew if we stayed in the game, they would break before we did. That's just our mentality. It's what we do," said offensive lineman Jack Frazier.

The Bucs took it 81 yards with  Sanderfer getting 68 of it, his final 23-yard run putting the Bucs on top with just 36 second remaining. A blocked extra point gave the Bears hope, and quarterback Roman Mathis got them down to the 25-yard line before his pass was picked off by David Green, who returned it 95 yards as time expired to seal the victory and put an exclamation score on the board.

The Bucs finished with 286 total yards, but didn't punt in the final half , scoring on all three of its possessions as the offensive line opened it up for the Buc runners.

"We really didn't do anything different the second half scheme wise with our blocking, we just wore them down. When you have our backs running as hard as they did, it takes a toll. Coming into this game, our coach was really relaxed. He's been here before and his calmness was contagious. He was very much in his element and it showed. Everything just fit into place this week," said Jackson Blocker, the Bucs' lone senior on the offensive line.

Boyd Buchanan (13-0) wound up with 232 rushing yards as Sebastain Jones added 50 on eight carries, including one of the "pull the rabbit out of the hat" plays when the Bucs lined up for a quarterback sneak on a third-and-shot but faked it into the line and handed it to Jones who went 32 yards to put the Bucs up 10-0 in the first half.

Davidson Academy rang up 377 total yards as Stroud went for 166 rushing yards on 26 carries and Roberts passed for 186 yards, including a 75-yard toss to Will Breece, who had three catches for 82 yards. TJ Peaks added four catches for 75 yards.

Ethan Lane hammered a 41-yard field goal on the Bucs first possession and Davidson Academy got a 20-yard field goal on the final play of the first half from Roman Mathis to tie it.

The Bucs will play for their second title in school history hoping to add to their 2003 hardware.

"There just one thing left for us to do, and that's win it," added Sanderfer.







-- 24






-- 36

BB -- Ethan Lane 41 Field Goal (2:32, 1st)

BB -- Sebastain Jones 32 run (Ethan Lane Kick) (8:14, 2nd)

DA -- Will Breece 75 pass from Knox Roberts (Roman Mathis kick) (3:52, 2nd)

DA -- Roman Mathios 20 Field Goal (0:00, 2nd)

DA -- Caden Stroud 4 run (Roman Mathis Kick) (5:45, 3rd)

BB -- Jaylon Sanderfer 21 run (Ethan Lane kick) (4:46, 3rd)

BB -- Jaylon Sanderfer 10 run (Ethan Lane kick) (9:49, 4th)

DA -- Caden Stroud 4 run (Roman Mathis Kick) (5:41, 4th)

BB -- Jaylon Sanderfer 10 run (kick blocked) (0:35, 4th)

BB -- David Green 95 interception return (no kick) (0:00, 4th)





First Downs






Passing Yards



Total yards



Passing (Comp-Att-Int)













Individual  Stats

RUSHING:  Caden Stroud 26-166, Knox Roberts 5-26 (DA); Jaylon Sanderfer 13-107, Asher Keck 8-34, Sebastain Jones 8-50, David Green 4-17, Jatavious Davis 4-13, Jeri Young 1-11 (BB).

PASSING: Knox Roberts 12-20-1 186 yards (DA); Houston Hicks 6-10-0 53 yards, Sebastain Jones 0-1-1 0 yards (BB).

RECEIVING: Will Breece 3-82, TJ Peaks 4-75, Caden Stroud 2-11, Josiah Moore 1-17, Josh Bolden 1-7, Wes Harper 1-4 (DA): PJ Donaldson 3-2, Jayden Moore 1-27, Hudson Wamack 1-7, Jeri Young 1-18 (BB).

RECORDS: Davidson Academy (10-3), Boyd Buchanan (13-0).

UP NEXT: Boyd Buchanan will meet CPA (12-1) in the DII-AA BlueCross Bowl at Finley Stadium on Thursday, November 30 at 11 a.m.     

(Contact James Beach at


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