FORT GAY — Offense was at a premium Friday evening at Wilt Salmons Field, but Buffalo found ways to score in a 13-6 road win over Tolsia — the Bison’s first ever head-to-head victory over the Rebels in football.
It was a game the Bison (4-3) needed to keep their playoff hopes alive, entering the game with an even 3-3 record. Buffalo coach Brian Batman knew his team couldn’t afford a loss and the Bison defense played it like it was an elimination game.
The Rebels (4-3), No. 10 in Class A, were held to just 101 yards of total offense, 87 in the second half, and turned the ball over four times in the loss. Buffalo filled every gap, made a play on every pass, and made Tolsia truly earn every yard it gained.
“We had to win all four [remaining games] to even have a chance at the postseason,” Batman said. “This was the first step, now we’ve got to take another. Turnovers were big tonight. We had a few, they had a few. One cost us a touchdown but the last one cost them the game.”
A 12-play, 75-yard drive from Buffalo was the difference in the first half, giving the Bison a 7-0 advantage at halftime. Quarterback Jackson England found a streaking Dalton Jones for 35 yards and the game’s first score.
The Rebels managed just four yards of total offense in the second quarter and failed to take advantage of an excellent kickoff return by Gavin Meadows that set the offense up at the Buffalo 25-yard line after the touchdown.
After Jesse Muncy connected with Devin Stull for four yards on first down, he dropped back to pass again on second down and was intercepted by England, allowing the Bison to maintain a one-score lead.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Rebels found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Muncy capped off a short 35-yard scoring drive set up by a muffed punt with an 11-yard rush to pull Tolsia within a point, 7-6, after the failed 2-point conversion.
Two possessions later, Tolsia lined up to punt facing a fourth and 11 at its own 39-yard line. The snap went over Muncy’s head and when he got the rugby-style kick off, it landed just four yards beyond the original line of scrimmage, giving Buffalo another short field.
It took Buffalo just four plays to tack on another score, giving the Bison a 13-6 lead with four minutes left in the contest.
“I told our team at halftime that if we got one more score, we’d win the game,” Batman said. “That’s exactly what we did.”
Given the Rebels’ ineptitude on offense, the one-score lead held the rest of the way. There wasn’t anything that consistently worked as Buffalo filled every gap and defended nearly every pass.
“There’s no excuse. We knew they were stout defensively and we were a little banged up on both sides of the ball but we still have to find a way to make plays,” Tolsia coach Eric Crum said after the loss.
With less than two minutes remaining, trailing by eight, Tolsia had one last chance to put together a scoring drive and potentially force overtime. The drive, which reached as far as the Buffalo 30, abruptly ended when Stull lost a fumble, which was picked up by Buffalo’s Austin Kile and returned 30 yards to the Tolsia 40 with 1:34 remaining.
The Rebels have dropped consecutive contests for the first time this year. Buffalo meets Midland Trail in an effort to keep its postseason dreams intact.