ELIZABETHVILLE - Senior night can mean different things to different people but the atmosphere will typically cause athletes to find that extra gear to perform well.
For Ian Buffington, it translated into 214 yards rushing and five touchdowns to lead Upper Dauphin to a 53-22 win over East Juniata. Buffington went into the locker room with 155 yards and four touchdowns but was not finished finding his way into the end zone, adding a one-yard score early in the third quarter.
"It made me feel really good about my season," Buffington said. "Especially tonight, last home game and to go out on a high note."
Sentinel photo by LARRY?YOHN
Upper Dauphin’s Ian Buffington (6)?is brought down by East Juniata tacklers, from left, Tyler Meyers, Tyler Herbster, Marcus Klingler and Andrew Karchner.
From the opening Trojan possession, it was clear that Buffington was playing with a full head of steam and would not let any Tiger (1-7, 0-7 TVL) defenders drag him to the ground before he had gained significant yardage. A five-yard touchdown on the first drive would prove to be simply a warmup to the type of game Buffington would have.
"Ian is just a tough back," Trojans coach Brent Bell said. "A lot of plays, he got extra yardage after first contact. He did a great job tonight."
Buffington added an eight-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 13-7 lead after the Tigers tied the game on a touchdown catch by Marcus Klingler after David Brantley put the Tigers in the red zone with a 53-yard run.
*East Juniata hosts Millersburg on Oct. 26
In any breakout game, the main cog will have a large play to gain yardage and Buffington was no exception. Buffington burst through a hole on a 42-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Moments later, the Trojans held a 21-7 lead after a two-point conversion run by Austin A. Weaver. On this night, once Buffington found himself in open space, he was determined to end the play standing in the end zone, and four times when he had a step on the defense, that was the case.
A quick three-and-out by the Trojan defense put the ball back into the hands of the Trojan offense and into the end zone. From the Tigers 25, Buffington needed two plays to punch the ball in for the fourth time in the first half. A 14-yard touchdown from the senior running back gave the Trojans a 27-7 lead.
After the Trojans recovered an onside kick to start the second half, the rushing attack kicked back into high gear with a quick scoring drive. The Trojans reached the red zone from their own 39-yard line in three plays, benefiting from a facemask penalty following a 12-yard run from Cole Reed to move the ball to the three. Two plays later, Buffington had added another touchdown to a memorable senior night.
The defense will often get lost in the shuffle when a player on offense is in the midst of a breakout day, whether on the ground or through the air, but the Trojans defense shut down a potent Tigers running attack to hand the ball back to the offense time and time again to allow Buffington to electrify the home crowd.
Despite not being able to find the end zone on the ground, David Brantley made an impact using his speed in the receiving game to help the Tigers. The versatile running back caught two passes but made the most of his opportunites with 77 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown.
"David did a great job," Tigers coach Simon Cameron said. "I think a lot of our guys did well. We just got out-handled."
As Buffington was gashing through holes on his way to a standout performance and Reed was acting as a change-of-pace back, the Trojans were able to control the clock and play to their strengths. On a 12-play drive chewing over six minutes off the clock in the third and fourth quarters, Buffington, Reed and Austin Weaver rotated carries to drive the ball down the field, picking up first downs on four consecutive plays to move the ball into Tiger territory.
Despite trailing late in the game down 47-14 after a 49-yard scamper from the Trojans' Trey Campbell, the Tigers found a spark through special teams.
On the ensuing kickoff following the touchdown by Campbell, Brandon Love fielded the kick and raced down the right side of the field 84 yards to score after finding a seam near midfield and outrunning the Trojans' kick coverage. For Love, the 84-yard burst was his third kick return touchdown of the season, showing an ability to quickly provide a spark for his team.
After an interception, the Trojans put the ball into the hands of Dustin Shomper to close out the win, with Shomper scoring a five-yard touchdown to push the score to 53-22.