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For The Lancaster News
INDIAN LAND – The regular-season finale between county rivals Buford and Indian Land brought out all the emotions one might not expect.
In the end, IL had the victory smile with a 23-19 win.
The Jackets and Warriors have struggled this season, going a combined 4-14 overall with neither team having a region win entering the clash.
By game’s end, there were tears of joy and sadness alike.
There were hugs of celebration and comfort, and there was shared concern for a fallen player.
No mistake, it’s a county rivalry.
“This is actually one of the better rivalries around,” IL coach Mike Mayer said. “I think that’s why you see the type of games you see between us played with such emotion.
“It meant a lot to both teams to win this game despite the fact that we’re at the bottom of our region,” Mayer said.
The Warriors took the opening drive at their 31 and pieced one of its most complete drives of the season.
The Warriors drove 69 yards in 17 plays, consuming 7:22 and converting 3 of 4 third-down attempts. IL capped the drive on Austin Gordon’s six-yard touchdown run. Shea Rodgers added the kick for a 7-0 IL lead.
The IL scoring drive cost the Jackets more than points.
Midway the IL march, BHS linebacker Nic Chavis injured his head and neck on a tackle. Chavis was taken from the field by Lancaster County EMS and air-lifted to Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte.
When play resumed, the Jackets took their first possession at their 33.
On the second snap, a Jackets’ fumble led to an easy IL scored as alert Terrell White returned the ball 30 yards for the score. Rodgers’ kick put IL up, 14-0.
As the second quarter began, the Jackets’ offense began to click.
BHS, from its 39, used the running back tandem of Evan Flynn and LaDarius Parker to move into Indian Land territory.
Flynn capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Wade Lambert added the point to cut the IL lead, 14-7.
IL wasn’t able to keep the chains moving on its next drive and punted. The kick sailed aimlessly out of bounds at the BHS 46.
After working into IL territory, Buford faced a fourth and five at the IL 28.
Jackets’ quarterback Scotti Moser hit Christian Catledge for a 28-yard TD pass.
IL’s Trevor Martin blocked the kick to leave the Warriors up, 14-13 at the half.
“Our kids played hard and fought back after falling behind early,” BHS coach Mike Wells said. “I was proud to see that especially after the injury situation with Nic.”
In the third quarter, the lone scoring play belonged to IL’s Gordon, who rushed for his second TD. He tallied from five yards out for a 21-13 IL lead after Rodgers’ conversion.
BHS pulled close in the final period as a blocked punt set up the Jackets’ score at the IL 15.
The Jackets’ Moser hit tight end Kyle Norcia for the score.
With only five minutes left, the Jackets opted for the two-point play to tie the game.
Flynn, on the crucial carry, appeared to reach the end zone as he dove across the line, but he was ruled down as his knee touched the ground before the ball broke the plane.
BHS had one final possession, but couldn’t move the ball.
The Warriors delivered the big play, with an end zone sack of Moser for the safety and the 23-19 region win.
“We played well overall for the most part,” Wells said. “We couldn’t make the big play, or get the big stop when we needed it most though.”
The win was a long time in coming for IL, which snapped a six-game skid.
“We have lost some close games this season,” Mayer said. “It feels good to finally come out on the other end of a close one. It wouldn’t have mattered how we won tonight, we just needed to win.”