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Jackets hold off Vols, 34-27

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BHS builds early lead to take HC win

Heath Joplin
For The Lancaster News
BUFORD – Buford held on for a happy homecoming Friday night at Jackets Stadium.
The Jackets built an early lead and stayed on top for a 34-27 win over county rival Andrew Jackson in the Region IV-AA football opener for both clubs.
Buford, up 17-0 at the half, saw AJ rally late, but a clutch Autry Blackmon fumble recovery foiled a last-ditch AJ threat to seal the Jackets’ exciting homecoming victory.
BHS entered the game on a two-game skid, while the visiting Volunteers were on a three-game winning streak.
BHS, with a fast start, took the opening kickoff and established their running game early.
Seniors Josh Mullens and Mikeem McKinney led the way as the Jackets drove 72 yards down to the AJ 7.
The Vols’ defense was able to hold the Jackets to a Donovan Lang 29-yard field goal for a 3-0 edge.
The 13-play drive in the Jackets’ ball-control attack shaved seven minutes off the clock.
From that point, the swarming Jackets’ defense took over.
The Vols’ first two possessions were both three down and out.
On AJ’s third drive, Jackets’ defensive back Silas Moore stepped in front of a Kolby Whitley pass and returned it to the AJ 44.
Moore produced a big night as the BHS senior recorded his first two-interception game of his career.
As the second period began, the Jackets took advantage of the Vols’ turnover.
BHS, facing a first and 10 from the AJ 29, McKinney dashed the distance to score his first touchdown of the night. McKinney ran for 117 yards on eight carries.
Lang’s kick gave BHS a 10-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, it was more of Moore and the ball-hawking Buford defense.
Whitley was picked off as the Vols faced a third and 15 from their 31. Moore’s key interception gave BHS the short field again at the AJ 30.
The opportunistic Jackets drove in and Mullens, who ran for 90 yards, capped the march with a touchdown run from a yard out.
The Lang kick gave BHS a 17-0 halftime lead.
AJ coach David Moore was not pleased his team’s effort at that point.
“We came out flat and didn’t respond,” he said. “Conversely, Buford came out ready to play and they just took it to us. I have to credit them.”
BHS coach Mike Wells said he liked his team’s approach.
“We played well in the first half,” Wells said. “We were aggressive and our defense put our offense in position to make big plays. It was all about teamwork and working together. I was proud of our team with the way they responded after the tough loss at Great Falls last week.”
The AJ offense began to show signs of life in the third quarter.
After finding Gavin Clyburn for a 30-reception, Whitley hit fleet AJ junior receiver Quadarius Fair for a 40-yard strike to get the Vols on the board.
The Chandler Neal point-after cut the BHS lead to 17-7.
The Jackets began the ensuing drive at their own 37 and soon found themselves in AJ territory after an 18-yard McKinney run and a 15-yard personal foul on the Vols.
BHS, on a key third and two snap from the AJ five, had the hard-running Mullens power his way in for his second score of night. Lang’s kick gave BHS a 24-7 edge.
AJ wouldn’t go easy though. The Vols’ Fair returned the BHS kick off 90 yards to quickly cut the BHS lead to 24-14.
Back came BHS as the Jackets’ Evan Flynn, on the next BHS possession, rumbled 33 yards for the touchdown. Lang’s extra point gave BHS a 31-14 advantage.
Lang, early in the final period, connected on a 30-yard field goal for a 34-14 BHS lead.
The Vols, down 20 with 11 minutes left, kept battling.
AJ drove 59 yards to the Buford nine where the Vols had a first and goal.
Whitley again found Fair for the touchdown pass and the Buford lead was down to 34-20 after the conversion failed with 6:21 left. BHS held a 14-point advantage.
AJ recovered an onsides kick. and the Vols wasted no time in converting that into a touchdown as Whitley threw for his third score of the night.
This time it was Corley Faulkenberry on the receiving end from 49 yards out.
Neal’s kick was good and the Jackets’ lead was now 34-27.
After holding BHS to a three-and-out, the Vols had one last shot.
Facing a first and 10 from their 26, Whitley completed a 22-yard pass to Tray King, but King fumbled  and the Jackets’ Blackmon recovered to preserve the Jackets’ win.
“We made a game of it in the second half, but just didn’t make enough big plays, or get enough stops,” Moore said. “Buford played well tonight and my hat’s off to them. We need to have a good week of practice and get ready for Cheraw.”
Cheraw topped Indian Land, 34-13.
Wells said the Jackets produced a complete effort.
“We played good on both sides of the ball tonight,” Wells said. “We had good line play and were able to take advantage of some early AJ mistakes. This was a big win for us considering our next two games are on the road starting with Central next week. This gives us a little momentum going into that game.”
Haven Langley, daughter of Jamie and Donna Langley, was crowned the BHS 2012 homecoming queen at the half.