Buford falls to Cheraw on Senior night

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Gregory A. Summers
Two yards may as well be 100 for a team in the midst of a scoring drought.
That notion rang as clear as the Cheraw sideline bell on Friday night when Buford High School fell to the Braves, 19-0, in region play.
After time expired, the only thing Yellow Jackets football coach Mike Wells could do was stare at the same field shaking his head in the same fashion as BHS senior Troy Cunningham.
Chances were there, but Buford just couldn’t finish.
“You know, we kept the ball on their side of the field the entire second half and got nothing to show for it,” Wells said of his 3-5 Yellow Jackets. “Plain and simple, we have got to get better offensively.”
Buford got behind on the fourth play of the game on a long touchdown by Khalil Newton. After having trouble handling the opening kickoff, Newton atoned for the mistake with an 80-yard touchdown run at the 10:40 mark of the first quarter. The extra point attempt by Andres Lopez Vargas was blocked giving the Braves a 6-0 lead.
Cheraw scored again in the first period, capping an 11-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Mark Bowman. Braves quarterback Robert Pitts keyed the drive with a 27-yard run. Cheraw went for two, but Newton was slung down by a swarm of Jackets in the backfield.
For Buford it was one step forward and two steps back much of the first half. Jesse Stacks took the ensuring kick-off to midfield, but the Jackets were whistled for a block in the back and pinned at their own 14-yard line.
Thanks to the hard running of Stacks and LaDarius “LP” Parker, the Jackets appeared to be on the verge of breaking out of their scoring funk. But the promising drive ended on the first play of the second quarter deep in Cheraw territory on a costly fumble.
The Braves moved the ball to the Jackets 19-yard-line, but turned the ball over on downs.
“I thought our defense played pretty well tonight, despite what the scoreboard showed,” Wells said. “They hustled and flew to the ball.”
Buford took over at its own 17-yard line and Jackets quarterback Scotti Moser tossed the ball to a wide open Kyle Norcia. The junior tight end pulled the ball in and streaked down the middle of the field, but was stripped of the ball, turning it right back over to Cheraw near midfield.
The Braves took advantage of the turnover, scoring a 7-yard-run by Bowman with 5:05 left in the first half. Lopez Vargas tacked on the extra point to give Cheraw a 19-0 lead.
In the third quarter, the turnover fairy switched sides when BHS defensive back Christian Catledge intercepted a Pitts’ pass, his first of two picks for the night. The Jackets moved the ball inside the 20-yard-line, but couldn’t score and turned the ball over on downs.
“When it’s fourth and two, you can’t run sideways,” Wells said. “You have got to gut it out and run straight ahead.”
After holding Cheraw again, Buford moved the ball down the field, converting two fourth downs into firsts on clutch passes from Moser to Norcia. But when it counted most, the Jackets couldn’t convert. Three promising second half drives ended inside the Braves 15-yard line with no points for Buford.
It’s been that way for the last 10 quarters, a trend that is frustrating Wells.
“We’re pretty close,” he said. “We make some good plays, but when we gotta have one to swing the momentum, we just can’t get it. We have got to get better offensively and finish what we start.”
Buford travels to Chesterfield next Friday, Oct. 25, to face the Rams. Chesterfield defeated Andrew Jackson, 48 to 13.
“We’ll come in Monday and get right back to work,” Wells said.