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NDIAN LAND – Lancaster County’s oldest high school football rivalry ended much the same way many others have in the past – down to the wire.
Indian Land High School’s Michael Rodriguez recovered a Buford onside kick to help the Warriors edge old foe Buford, 23-21 at IL’s Reservation on Friday night.
The Warriors, 7-3, 2-3, were able to hold on and post the two-point win over the scrappy Jackets, who dropped a 23-13 loss at BHS to open the season.
“We knew it would be tough and we would have to fight to the final tick and we did,” IL coach Mike Mayer said. “It was a physical contest all the way.”
The physical play took its toll on both sides. Warriors’ ace Rondreas Truesdale was injured in the game and saw limited action in the second half.
Buford High School standout senior running back Scott Catledge, the Jackets’ top rusher, didn’t finish the game after being ejected in the second period when he kicked an IL defender in the pile.
The game was a battle to the finish and started the same.
The Warriors, as Mayer had hoped, broke on top with Truesdale, who ran for 49 yards in 15 carries, dashing in from two yards out for a 7-0 lead after Chad Thomas drilled the extra point with 8:09 to play in the first period.
Buford came back at the close of the period as Jackets’ quarterback C.J. Blackmon, who ran for 60 yards in six carries, sprinted 20 yards to tie the game after Tyler Jenkins nailed the kick with 1:15 to play in the opening period.
Indian Land, with Truesdale limited with an injury, had to have a veteran player step to the fore and senior running back Trey Eaves did.
Eaves, who ran for 210 yards in 23 carries, ran 57 yards to give Indian Land a 13-7 lead with 7:26 to play in the opening half.
Eaves struck again for the Warriors as he ran for 44 yards for a 20-7 lead with 2:06 to play in the second period.
“Trey ran hard and responded to the challenge, but a back is only as good as the offensive line and our guys in the offensive trenches stepped up to play a key role in our win,” Mayer said.
The Jackets, 4-6, 1-4, rallied before the half as Blackmon led BHS on a scoring drive.
On a keeper, Blackmon picked up a first down, but on the play he fumbled and senior Jackets’ lineman James Mackey picked up the loose ball and dashed 25 yards to slice the IL lead to 20-14 after Jenkins added the conversion kick.
“When you get a break, you just make the most of it,” BHS coach Mike Wells said. “James was heads-up on the play and made the best of the situation to get us back in the game.”
The game stayed that way until the late stages of the third period when Eaves, with a 44-yard run, set up what proved to be the winning points.
Thomas kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 23-14 edge.
Buford, with the clock winding down, battled as the Jackets drove in for a score on a drive engineered by Blackmon. Jay Chambers’ three-yard run sliced the IL lead to two after Jenkins converted with 1:27 to play, but the Warriors held on to snap a three-game region slide.
“It was good to be back home and good to get a win,” Mayer said. “This game had the feeling of a playoff game and really it was because it helped to determine playoff seeding.”
Indian, with a home playoff bid, is slated to host 8-2 Liberty in first-round play. Liberty beat Crescent 48-21.
Buford is slated to venture to Carolina High in Greenville to face the 6-4 Trojans, who fell to Chesnee, 39-6 on Friday night.
“We battled and battled today,” Wells said. “The effort was there, but we came up a little short tonight.
“If we could have gotten possession on that last onside kick, it would have been interesting,” Wells said.