Buchanan uses pass play as springboard for victory

By Matt Hill


   CHATTANOOGA--It was the big play that started a night of big plays for the Boyd-Buchanan Buccaneers.
   The Buccaneers were trailing the Cloudland Highlanders 8-6 late in the second quarter in a TSSAA Class A state semifinal contest at Finley Stadium Friday night, but an 11-yard touchdown pass from Will Helay to Drew Akins put Boyd-Buchanan up for good.
   It was all Boyd-Buchanan from that point on, as it went on to rout the 'Landers 39-8 to earn a trip to Murfreesboro for next week's state title game.
   The 'Landers had just scored on a Mark Byrd touchdown pass to Cole Gouge to give the boys from Roan Mountain the lead with 4:00 left before halftime. But Helay and the Bucs answered back with a couple of big completions to put Boyd at the Cloudland 11.
   Then came a masterpiece play in which Helay found Drew Akins at the edge of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
   After that point, Boyd Buchanan dominated.
   "Dad called my number, and that play was working really well," Akins said, the son of Boyd-Buchanan head coach Robert Akins. "We were ready to play, and I guess it gave us a boost. It gave us a boost, but the second half is what really put us over the top."
   Akins and the Bucs wanted to make sure that they had the upper hand going into the locker room.
   "We don't like to be down at the half," Akins said. "It really got us going on offense. We weren't really moving the ball well, and then when we put it in there. We did pretty good after that."
   In the 1999 NCAA Division I-AA Championship game at Finley Stadium, Georgia Southern fullback Adrian Peterson bulldozed his way through several would-be tacklers in a play that became known as "The Run."
   Though he didn't have the power of Peterson, Boyd-Buchanan's Matt Peardon came up with a run that the home stadium of the Chattanooga Mocs probably hasn't seen since the A-Train's heroics.
   Peardon took an option pitch from Helay, eluded several 'Landers, and romped his way into the end zone from 35-yards out to give the Bucs a commanding 26-8 advantage following the successful two-point conversion.
   "We just had great blocking," Peardon said. "All I had to do was find the holes and everything was all right."
   The touchdown was probably the one that put the nail in the coffin. Peardon was elated after the big run.
   "I was freaking out," Peardon said. "It was the best feeling in the world."
   For most of the season, Cloudland superstar Mark Byrd has lined up as the team's quarterback.
   But during the second quarter of Friday's game, that all changed.
   Byrd played most of Cloudland's only scoring drive of the game at tailback, and had some of his best runs of the night from that spot.
   "Coach Lunsford just tried to put me in there to help the team," Byrd said. "I don't think it was a have to thing, but he just decided to go with me. I just decided to run it as hard as I could."
   Byrd returned to quarterback to throw the touchdown pass to Gouge, and played most of the rest of the way at the spot he's accustomed to playing.
   "It's good to mix it up," Byrd said. "Me quarterbacking or me at tailback or wherever the team needs me, I just go out there and do my best."
   With Boyd-Buchanan stopping the Cloudland run, the 'Landers were forced to go to the passing attack many times on Friday night.
   Everybody who follows Cloudland football knows the 'Landers like to run the football, but the passing game was needed on this night.
   Byrd had the touchdown pass to Gouge, but the 'Landers struggled through the air most of the evening.
   Part of the reason for the struggling passing game might have been due to Byrd playing with a broken hand and an injured shoulder.
   "We had our backs to the wall," Byrd said. "We just tried to go out and pass it. We didn't have too much success at that. They've got a great defense, and they just stuck it to us."
   For the second year in a row, the Cloudland Highlanders advanced farther than any other public school in Class A.
   But also for the second-straight season, the "Landers were defeated by a private school in the playoffs.
   There's been a lot of discussion on whether or not private schools like Boyd-Buchanan and Ezell-Harding should be allowed to compete with rural public schools like Cloudland.
   Many public schools in the Class A ranks believe the private schools have unfair recruiting advantages.
   One young man that echoed the sentiments of the previous statement was Byrd.
   "I would much rather do away with the privates, in my opinion," Byrd said. "It's not real fair. They can go out and recruit, and we can't. It makes it tough on us."
   Despite his feelings on the matter, Byrd still gave credit to Boyd-Buchanan for winning the football game.
   "I don't like to complain," he said. "They were just the better football team tonight."