Looking to bounce back from their loss against a very good Wofford team, the Bucs came into Saturday’s match-up against Western Carolina with a chance to stay atop of the conference standings. Despite a 3-4 record, the Western Carolina Catamounts came into the matchup as one of the most potent offenses in the conference, averaging 42 points per game. The Bucs pulled another late-game comeback to win 45-43 in a triple overtime thriller.
Both teams came into the game playing for the new Blue Ridge Border Battle trophy, and it would not be won easily.
The Bucs started the game very creative offensively, attacking Western Carolina on the edge early. The drive lasted over six minutes with Quay Holmes (Powder Springs, Georgia) finishing the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point snap was botched giving the Bucs a 6-0 lead at the start of the first quarter.
The Bucs’ defense kept the Catamounts from scoring in the first quarter. With the ball to start the second quarter, the Bucs scored on a JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tennessee) 28-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 9-0 lead.
What makes the Western Carolina offense so potent is quarterback Tyrie Adams’ ability to make defenders miss and his accuracy to make throws in tight windows. Following the Bucs field goal, Adams made his presence, accounting for 63 rushing yards ending the drive. Adams ended the drive with a six-yard rushing touchdown, and following the extra kick the Bucs led 9-7.
With under seven minutes to play in the second quarter the Bucs got back on the scoreboard after another Jerman 27-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 12-7 lead. Adams’ passing ability was on full display following the Bucs’ score. He finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to give Western Carolina the lead over the Bucs going into the half at 13-12.
At the half, the Bucs had rushed for 130-yards but allowed Catamounts quarterback to rush for 107 yards himself. Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tennessee) was efficient in the first half completing 13 of 18 passes for only 100 yards. Herink’s only mistake came at the end of the half throwing an interception.
Western Carolina extended their lead on the opening drive of the second half with a 29-yard rushing touchdown. The score gave Western Carolina a 20-12 lead over the Bucs with less than 13 minutes in the third quarter. After a quick three and out by the Bucs, Western Carolina got back on the board converting a 36-yard field goal to take an 11 point lead, 23-12. Three minutes to go in the third, despite moving the ball so well on the drive, the Bucs settled for a 30-yard field goal to make it a one-score game again trailing 23-15.
“The one thing I talked to this team about since the first day is overcoming adversity and playing the next play,” said head coach Randy Sanders. “I told them to keep playing, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Western Carolina got creative on their opening drive of the fourth quarter them a 30-15 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Bucs struck back with five minutes left in the game when Herink rushed for a three-yard touchdown to trail 30-22 in position to tie the game.
Herink and the Bucs fought back, completing a one-yard touchdown pass to bring the Bucs’ deficit to 30-28 and after going for two, and succeeding, the score was tied 30-30.
After a Bucs’ interception and a missed Western Carolina field goal, the teams went into double overtime. Western Carolina scored on the opening drive on an Adams 25-yard touchdown pass. The Bucs responded as Jacob Saylors (Jasper, Tennessee) ran for the touchdown, tying score to bring the score to 37-37.
Saylors followed up with another touchdown, going untouched to give the Bucs a 45-37 lead after Herink ran in the two-point conversion. Adams threw his fourth touchdown to put Western Carolina down two points, and on their two-point conversion attempt the Bucs’ defensive pressure forced Adams to force a pass incomplete. The Bucs won in triple-overtime, 45-43.
“You can’t get caught up in the mistake you made previously,” said Herink. “Controlling what you can control is an attitude I think our team came with.”