Bluffton downs rival Defiance 27-24 in two OT's
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Beavers held off a late Defiance rally to beat the Yellow Jackets after a field goal from the visitors with two seconds remaining pushed the game into overtime. After the teams traded touchdowns in the first extra session, a Bluffton field goal in the second and an interception by senior Tyler Hensley (Batavia) sealed a 27-24 victory by the home team, marking the third straight year Bluffton has taken down rival Defiance.
Ben Schamp (St. Marys/Memorial) recovered an early fumble, setting up kicker Austin Sweeney (Adrian Mich./Whitmer) for a 40-yard field goal, his longest of the season, which put the Beavers on top 3-0. Defiance took the lead on the ensuing possession when Garrett Teague found Brian Mircovich for a six-yard touchdown with 5:18 to play in the first period. The extra point was good to make the score 7-3.
The score remained 7-3 until Nick Smith (Troy) picked off the Yellow Jackets at midfield with 47 seconds left in the first half. Bluffton made the Jackets pay on the next play when Tyler Wright (Troy) connected with Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester) for a 48-yard flea-flicker that gave Bluffton a 10-7 lead at the break.
The Beavers extended the lead late in the third quarter when Calib Alexander (Ocala, Fla./St. John Lutheran) fought off a defender to haul in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Wright. Sweeney connected again to put the Beavers up 17-7 with 4:30 remaining in the third.
The Yellow Jackets pulled within three when Leroy Cheatham picked up a Beaver fumble and returned it 50 yards to pay-dirt which made the score 17-14 after a successful PAT. Bluffton held off the visitors until Teague found Mircovich late in the game on a 43-yard tipped pass that put the Jackets on the 15-yard line. That completion set up a Spencer Saunders 32-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining. His attempt was good and sent the contest into overtime.
Defiance scored on the first overtime possession as Teague found Jon Carribino for a 14-yard touchdown pass, but Bluffton answered when Wright jumped over the pile and into the end zone on Bluffton's possession to knot the score at 24.
Bluffton started the second overtime with the ball and went up three on a 22-yard field goal by Sweeney. After two Defiance runs, a Teague pass on third down was intercepted by Hensley, sealing the Bluffton Senior Day victory.
Wright led the Bluffton offense with 212 passing yards and two touchdowns on 11 completions. Sabin finished the final game of his career with an impressive 100 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches. Junior Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) led the Beavers' rushing attack with 56 yards on 16 carries. Sweeney finished the day with eight points after hitting both of his field goal attempts (40 and 22) and going 2-of-2 on extra points.
Seniors Ben Kaufman (Ottawa-Glandorf) and Preston Huddleston (Benton Harbor, Mich./Eau Claire) rocked the Jackets with 12 tackles each. Huddleston finished with 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Mike Johnson (Browns Mills, NJ/Pemberton Township) finished with 11 stops while fellow senior Derek Woods (Springfield/South) and junior Josh Runda (Lima/Bath) each tallied eight tackles.
Defiance finished with 357 total yards, compared to 297 for the Beavers. The Jackets went for 146 on the ground, while Bluffton completed 11 passes for 212 yards. Both teams fumbled it away three time and Defiance also tossed three interceptions, including the game-clincher. The home team was a perfect 3-of-3 in the red zone, while Defiance converted just three of its six opportunities inside the 20-yard line.
The win pushed Bluffton's record to 6-4 (5-3 HCAC) and marked the first time the Beavers have finished with a winning record since 2000.