Schedules rarely change as much as Buffalo’s has for the coming season.
But third-year coach Brian Batman hopes the overhaul keeps the Bison, well, on schedule for a return to the Class A playoffs.
Buffalo faces five different opponents in 2019, adding Midland Trail, Tyler Consolidated, Van, Ravenswood and Montcalm. Off the schedule are Poca, Tug Valley, Lincoln County, Valley Fayette and Hannan.
Valley, of course, closed its doors as a high school during Fayette County consolidations that took effect last spring, as did Fayetteville, which was another longtime Buffalo opponent. The Pirates and Bison met 19 times in 20 years between 1998-2017.
Remaining on the Buffalo schedule are Williamstown, Sherman, Tolsia, Greenbrier West and Wahama. That gives the Bison five opponents this year who reached the Class A playoffs last season — Williamstown (finals), Midland Trail (semifinals), Sherman (quarterfinals) and Tyler and Van (first round).
“We wanted to try to find a little more balance in our schedule,’’ Batman said. “We had a strip in the middle of last season with four straight home games, and this year it’s four straight away games. [By changing], we were able to get a bye week in there between those four.
“Unfortunately, that got rid of Tug Valley. We wanted to keep playing them, but for my football team it was better to balance up all those away games. Us and Tug are similar schools of similar size. It was a good series the last four, five years but I just felt like I had to make the best decision for my team.’’
Buffalo went 3-7 last season, an improvement from Batman’s first year, when the Bison were 2-8. Prior to that, Buffalo qualified for the postseason six times in seven years under former coach Mike Sawyer.
“We wanted to make the schedule a little bit tougher,’’ Batman said of facing five playoff teams. “We hated to lose [Class AA] Poca, but they decided to go in a different route in their scheduling. I’m guessing a lot of that had to do with playoffs and points and all that stuff. We didn’t do a whole lot to help them out, winning three games, and that probably had something to do with it. It’s unfortunate for the communities, and it would have been our home game this year, but I think we may end up being back on there sometime.’’
Some of the new opponents haven’t met the Bison in several years. Buffalo last played Ravenswood in 1987 (but did scrimmage the Red Devils last year). Van hasn’t been on the schedule since 2000, Midland Trail since 2005 and Tyler 2014. The Bison have never met Montcalm.
“We’ve played a lot of young kids the last couple years,’’ Batman said, “and we feel like it may pay off for us this year. Just in case we win some games, we’ll be ready to roll and maybe get to the playoffs. As an assistant coach on teams that made the playoffs, I want to earn my way there and I wanted to schedule appropriately, and that’s where it all ended up.’’
Buffalo has some traveling to do with its revamped schedule, with a trip of 109 miles to Tyler Consolidated in Kidwell and 76 miles to Williamstown. Batman is particularly pleased to line up against Williamstown for a fourth straight season. The Jackets have played in the state finals eight times since 2003.
“We wanted to stay as close [to home] as we could,’’ Batman said, “but you want to challenge yourself. It’s the nature of what it is. Yes, we’ve got to go to Williamstown, but I’ll never get rid of that game. That’s who you’re trying to chase. It hasn’t been a great game for us, but as long as they’ll have me, they’ll stay on our schedule. That’s the kind of team we’ve got to play.’’
Buffalo has some key returnees back this season, including junior linebacker Park Michels, senior tailback Eli Brock, junior safety-quarterback Jackson England and junior receiver David Whittington.
Brock carried 129 times for 607 yards and five touchdowns last year, England hit on 45 of 82 passes for 630 yards and four TDs and Whittington caught 13 passes for 256 yards and score.