Aurora withstands furious rally to hand Buffalo its first loss

By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

AURORA — The Buffalo Bison ran only three offensive plays in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Aurora Houn Dawgs scored 24 points during that stretch en route to a 30-7 halftime lead on the state-ranked Bison.

The Houn Dawgs literally needed every single one of those points after Buffalo made a valiant comeback in the fourth quarter.

Trailing by a single point with 3 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in regulation, Buffalo — having rolled off 21 straight points in 8 ½ minutes — decided to go for two and the lead.

The Houn Dawgs stopped Buffalo’s outstanding senior quarterback Jamen Smith short of the goal and the Houn Dawg offense picked up three first downs to effectively run out the clock and hold on for a 36-35 victory Friday night.

“It was a big stop,” Aurora head coach Craig Weldy said of denying Smith on the two-point conversion attempt. “The kids flew around all night. I think maybe they underestimated our kids’ tenacity, because that’s a good team that came tonight from Buffalo. Those guys are awesome, they’ve got some great athletes, and Jamen Smith is simply unstoppable. We corralled him the first half and got some points on the board in front of them. Thank goodness we built up enough of a lead to withstand their onslaught there in the fourth quarter. That’s a tremendous football team.”

“We dig ourselves into a hole in the first half,” Buffalo head coach Ed Phillips said. “We don’t play very well or with very much energy or emotion and you’ve got to try to fight your way back. I’m proud of them for doing that. That showed some character when we decided to come back and make this an interesting game. We’re three yards away from winning it. We came here, we wanted a chance to win it, and we had it, but we didn’t play very well in the first half.”

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Phillips explained the decision to go for the lead rather than attempt the extra point for a tie score late.

“We had the best player (Jamen Smith) on the field,” Phillips said. “He’s a stud and if we block a little bit, he’s going to get in there. It’s just a matter of we didn’t get it in. They made a play and we didn’t. We came here to win the game and I felt like that was what we needed to do. We had them on the ropes, our kid he’s an all-state player for a reason, and put it in his hands and let him win the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t block well enough for that to happen.”

On their final possession, the Houn Dawgs dug in deep and delivered three first down runs, keeping the explosive Buffalo offense away from any opportunity to go win the football game.

“Our kids fought,” Weldy said. “Our offensive line was worn out. Those kids had spent themselves, but they had enough in their tank to finish the game and that’s what you try and teach kids. You finish your runs, you finish your tackles, and you try and finish the game.”

It turned out to be a 14:18 stretch in the first half when Buffalo’s offense barely had possession and Aurora generated 24 points to erase a 7-6 deficit after one quarter. In fact, the Houn Dawgs scored 30 unanswered for their halftime lead.

“When we’re clicking, we eat clock up,” Weldy said. “That’s the nice thing about option football and the flexbone. We threw it once and he (Aurora quarterback Aaron Fisher) threw it and it got picked, so we just didn’t throw it. We just ground the ball and we had some kids … Brody Sims had a phenomenal game. He’s actually playing at a fullback position, which is not his normal position. Our big fullback’s (Ian Jackson) been hurting for two weeks and he’s also our MIKE linebacker. He played a little bit, he had a couple big runs and he was doing a great job for us defensively, then he hurt his ankle again and went out. We could see the difference in our kids when he went out. He’s a big part of our game when he’s healthy.”

It was only 59 seconds into the second when an Aaron Fisher 3-yard run and a Sims conversion run put the Houn Dawgs up 14-7. Buffalo fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving Aurora a short field and nine plays later, Kohl Rohlman scored on a 4-yard run highlighted by second effort. With under a second remaining in the half, Ian Jackson scored on a 7-yard run.

Buffalo scored on its first second half possession. Like their first points early in the contest, the Bison scored off an Aurora turnover. On a fourth-and-1 play, Smith found paydirt from 25 yards out.

The Houn Dawgs sustained a lengthy drive the rest of the third and Rohlman’s 2-yard run only a few seconds in the fourth made it 36-14.

That’s when Buffalo’s offense went crazy.

Smith broke a 56-yard TD run for a one-play possession and Smith connected with Cameron Portis and Caleb Bennett on a pair of touchdown passes.

Rewinding to very early in the game, Buffalo senior defensive back Bode Abraham intercepted an Aurora pass and returned it to the Houn Dawg 1, setting up a Smith 1-yard run just 3:13 after kickoff.

Aurora’s first points came on a Jackson 9-yard run.

Aurora (3-2 overall) — originally scheduled to play Springfield Catholic on Friday before it was canceled due to COVID-19 — returns to Big 8 play in Week 6 against Hollister.

Buffalo (4-1) — slated to play Sherwood before COVID-19 had its say — should meet unbeaten Butler (5-0) next week.