Skyview's Brad Lapp intercepts a Nikiski pass in the second quarter at Skyview on Friday night. He ran the ball in for a touchdown.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
If Friday night was Eddie Buffington's welcome back party, the Skyview senior sure knows how to make a grand entrance.
Quarterbacking the Panthers last season after running the ball since he was 5-years old, Buffington returned to the Skyview backfield in style, rushing for 294 yards on 16 carries, including touchdowns of 75 and 23 yards, in leading the Panthers to an impressive 54-6 victory over visiting Nikiski on opening night.
"It's back where I'm at ... back in my position," Buffington said. "It's my favorite."
Buffington's skills weren't as required in the backfield last season, totaling only 224 yards on 60 carries, as Skyview owned one of the top running backs in the state in Gregor Bosick, who graduated after scoring 15 touchdowns and leading the Kenai Peninsula with 1,280 yards.
After only one game, however, Buffington's already proven he's ready to step into that integral role.
And he's not shy about letting people know it, either.
Nikiski's Brando Wik is brought down by Skyview's Brad Lapp in the second quarter on Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"Oh, I can fill those shoes," he said. "Greg's all power. I'm all finesse. It's two things that will work two different styles but it's effective.
"And with my team blocking for me like they are," Buffington added, "I'm more than ready."
Having watched the shifty RB in action last season and also in Pop Warner, first-year Panthers' coach Jerry Byrne didn't have a very difficult decision to make after inheriting the team.
"I knew that he's just got the legs, he's got the moves," he said. "I see great things for him this whole year."
Buffington wasted no time getting started Friday.
Following a Richie Shirnberg interception, he ran for nine yards to the Nikiski 24-yard line and on fourth-and-one from the 10, he scampered around the right end and out of bounds, setting up Conrad Cobb's 1-yard TD plunge for a 7-0 lead only 7:02 into the contest.
When the Bulldogs failed to convert on fourth-and-four from the Skyview 9-yard line, Buffington jetted 69 yards down the right sideline and one play later, accompanied by a plethora of key blocks, he took a pitch up the left side and beat one man into the end zone for a 13-0 advantage.
"I've got an incredible line. I couldn't have done it without them," he said. "I give all of my credit to my team."
Nikiski running back Beau Calderwood was pretty impressive himself, totaling 113 yards on 20 carries, including a pitch to the left side that he turned into a 65-yard TD run, trimming the deficit to 13-6 with 8:54 to play in the first half.
"We knew he'd be solid," said first-year Bulldogs' coach Ted Riddall. "We need to do a little bit more skills and systems for those guys up front, open some more holes."
From that point on, though, it was all Skyview.
Brad Lapp intercepted a Wiley Bennett pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and he added an 11-yard TD jaunt with under a minute to play, sending the Panthers into the locker room with a comfortable 27-6 lead.
Colten Bennett, another senior running back for Skyview, capped off a 10-play, 63-yard, third quarter drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, and following a fake punt which QB Michael Thornton turned into an 18-yard gain and a first down to open the fourth quarter, Thornton hit Lapp on the right side, leaving him enough room to make a crucial cut and walk into the end zone from 37 yards out for a 40-6 cushion.
"Michael did a super job at quarterback, showed a lot of poise. We tried to move it around quite a bit," Byrne said. "We've got a good little slot or wing back in Brad Lapp and Conrad Cobb (nine carries, 91 yards) at fullback. There's a lot of tools back there that we can use."
But Buffington wasn't done yet, as he saved his best for last.
On their first play from scrimmage midway through the final frame, he received the pitch to the left and turned the corner before tip-toeing down the sideline. With one man to beat, Buffington easily cut inside and raced 75 yards for the score.
"We knew he was a 100-meter kind of guy and so we tried to pay attention to him but obviously he's a great athlete," Riddall said. "He shifted gears on us and I don't think any of our kids have the gear that he has. It makes it difficult.
"He's hard to bring down and with that kind of speed and that size, he's going to create some problems for a lot of teams."
Buffington then capped the scoring by easily returning an interception about 40 yards for a touchdown late in the game.
"I knew we had a lot of talent. I watched these kids last year and they were just starting to come on," Byrne said. "We've got a really good core of juniors and seniors with a lot of experience ... They've got a lot of football behind them."
At the same time, though, even he was a bit shocked at the offensive assault put on by his team.
"It's very exciting. I didn't expect anything like this," he said. "I knew we could play them well, but I was pleasantly surprised.
"We've still got some tough ones down the line, but I think we gained a lot of respect."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
Panthers 54, Bulldogs 6
Nikiski 0 6 0 0 6
Skyview 7 20 7 20 54
S - Cobb 1 run (West kick), 4:58.
S - Buffington 23 run (kick failed), 9:09.
N - Calderwood 65 run (pass failed), 8:54.
S - Lapp 35 INT return (West pass to Buffington), 3:37.
S - Lapp 11 run (kick blocked), 0:25.
S - Bennett 10 run (West kick), 4:49.
S - Lapp 37 pass from Thornton (pass failed), 11:00.
S - Buffington 75 run (West kick), 6:46.
S - Buffington 40 INT return (West kick), 2:47.
First downs 8 16
Rushes-yards 37-161 40-468
Passing yards 7 46
Passes 2-15-4 2-4-1
Return yards 97 28
Punts-Avg. 4-27.25 0
Fumbles-lost 4-1 5-2
Penalties-yards 2-30 3-45
RUSHING - Nikiski: Calderwood 20-113, Boyle 13-43, Olsen 3-7, J. Wik 1-(-2); Skyview: Buffington 16-294, Cobb 9-91, Thornton 6-27, Lapp 5-34, Bennett 4-22.
PASSING - Nikiski: Bennett 0-8-2, 0 yards; B. Wik 2-7-2, 7 yards; Skyview: Thornton 2-4-1, 45 yards.
RECEIVING - Skyview: Lapp 1-37, Shirnberg 1-8.
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