The Altoona Buccaneers hosted the Sprayberry Yellow Jackets last night for a regional game with playoff implications. The Bucs were looking to continue their undefeated season, while Sprayberry had a four-game win-streak on the line.
It was a cold, late-October night with an ever-present breeze. Despite the chilly conditions, the Buc faithful showed up in droves to cheer on the home team. It was homecoming and the crisp fall air didn’t dissuade anyone from showing up to Buccaneer Stadium.
After a slow start, the Buc offense took control of the game with a touchdown halfway through the first quarter. A quick turnover on the ensuing possession gave the Bucs a ten-point lead early in the game, 10-0.
The Yellow Jackets were quick to respond, thanks to a 34-yard TD sprint from running back sensation Damarion Owens. With the extra point added on, Sprayberry was right back in the game, 10-7.
After the Yellow Jackets couldn’t convert on a 4th and 3, Allatoona’s next drive ate up a big chunk of the second quarter. With a balanced offensive plan that utilized both RB Jayden Ponder’s swift ground attack and QB Elan Hall’s air game, the Bucs extended their lead late in the second half, 17-7.
A short kickoff and a healthy return gave the Yellow Jackets excellent field position near midfield with less than three minutes left in the half. They were able to drive quickly to the red zone, but the drive stalled and they had to settle for a field goal attempt. The kick sailed slightly left though and the score remained 17-7 at halftime.
The Homecoming festivities at the intermission stretched the break an extra three minutes, which seemed to affect both teams. An ugly third quarter that included turnovers, penalties, and a failed fake punt yielded zero points for either team.
Sprayberry’s composure returned early in the fourth quarter as they capped a late third quarter push with a 34-yard field goal to bring the score to 17-10. A conservative final quarter from the Buc offense showcased Allatoona’s running game, featuring Ponder and Hall. Another clock-consuming drive in the fourth quarter failed to complete a 3rd and 7 from the Sprayberry 25 yard-line, and Allatoona called in kicker Alex Standford with just over three minutes left in the game. Standford obliged, sending the ball 42 yards to push the Buc lead to ten, 20-10.
The Yellow Jackets began working down the field on their next possession, managing the precious minutes left with timeouts and quick passes to the sideline. A TD-saving batted pass from Buc safety Fisher Paulsen and strong pass-defense from twin-brother Hunter Paulsen on the next play secured the win for Allatoona. The game ended with a final score of 20-10.
The Bucs host the Kell Longhorns next Friday in an important regional matchup. Both teams are undefeated in conference play and it should be an exciting game. Sprayberry would have hosted Pope, but COVID protocol forced the game to be cancelled. Unless they schedule an opponent next week, their next matchup will be a travel game, also against Kell.