BUFFALO GAP — Brad Wygant’s head-coaching debut at Buffalo Gap last week turned into a nightmare.
Wygant’s first home game Friday night was nothing but a long, sweet dream.
The Bison unleashed a devastating offensive assault in the first half, scoring on all six possessions en route to a 48-0 shellacking of the Parry McCluer Blues in nondistrict football.
Bryce Hildebrand and Tucker Kiracofe led the punishing ground attack in the first 24 minutes, combining for 233 yards and five touchdowns. Hildebrand rushed for 135 yards and two scores, while Kiracofe found the end zone three times and gained 98 yards.
Hildebrand added 20 more yards in the second half, while Kiracofe finished with 107 yards.
The game was a far cry from last season when the Bison narrowly escaped with a 42-41 victory in overtime.
Both teams were coming off Week 1 debacles on each side of the line that resulted in lopsided losses. Neither team’s offense found the end zone, while the defenses allowed a combined 104 points. The Blues gave up 62 in a trouncing from rival Rockbridge County, while the Bison let in 42 points at Clarke County.
The Bison put those demons to rest, but not for the still struggling Blues, who have now been outscored 110-0.
“That loss was a reality check,” Wygant said. “We got a hard lesson in humility that nothing is given to us. I could sense a change in the team on the bus ride home, and that carried into the practices this week.”
After getting slapped around by Clarke County, Kiracofe said the team came into the second week with a different mentality.
“We had a lot more energy and motivation,” the senior said. “Last week was not a good look for us.”
Gap set the tone from the start, taking the opening kickoff and marching 70 yards in nine plays, which Kiracofe capped with a 6-yard run. Samuel Holden’s two-point run put the Bison ahead 8-0 less than five minutes into the game.
“We like to defer the opening kickoff, but the team was hungry, so we took the ball to see what the offense could do,” Wygant said. “The offensive line was much better. They were driving off their blocks, and that opened up the running game.”
An interception on the Blues’ first possession put the Bison in business at PM’s 38. Three plays and 22 seconds later, Hildebrand ripped off a 30-yard TD run.
Gap’s third possession following a punt resulted in Kiracofe going over from 3 yards out, capping a 7-play, 76-yard drive. Cory Conner hauled in the two-point conversion pass, increasing the margin to 22-0 with 8:27 left in the half.
The Bison executed a successful onside kick, recovering the ball at PM’s 49. On the first play, Hildebrand swept the right side for the touchdown. Seth Fitzgerald ran in the conversion as the lead grew to 30-0.
Gap guaranteed running clock to begin the second half by scoring two more times in the final 1:31. Holden grabbed an 11-yard scoring strike from Fitzgerald, and after the Blues fumbled the ball away at their own 37, Kiracofe found the end zone from 9 yards with 18 seconds on the clock for a 42-0 blowout at the break.
After running nine plays during their first series, which ended in the interception, the Blues only had 10 snaps the rest of the opening half.
The Bison kept their scoring streak alive to begin the second half when Fitzgerald went up the middle for a 17-yard TD run on their lone third-quarter possession.
“We are a young team still adapting to their roles,” Fitzgerald said. “Our lines dominated both sides of the ball tonight. The defensive effort is a huge confidence booster.”
Wygant was especially happy for defensive coordinator Josh Wenger getting the zero.
“Shutouts are rare in football,” Wygant said. “Josh called a great game, and that carried over to the offense. Everything was meshing tonight.”
The Bison (1-1) hit the road over the western mountains next Friday for a visit to old rival Bath County. Then the schedule gets tougher with a home game against East Rockingham and a trip to Broadway to close out the nondistrict schedule.