AURORA — Emotions tend to run high before the first game of the season. For players and fans alike, the start of a season holds untold promises, dreams and hopes. It is a time unlike no other in a high school athlete's life. It's the same for coaches, too.
For Smoky Hill's first-year head coach Justin Hoffman, the gamut of feelings had to be extreme Friday as his young Buffs took the field to play Gateway, a team that Hoffman coached for the past six years, and a school where he was also the athletic director.
Hoffman was standing across the field from his former team. Prior to the game, Hoffman greeted new GHS head coach Ashour Peera and a few of his former players. But, once the game started, any reminiscing took a backseat.
Gateway set out to establish the run and it piled up the yards in the game. But it took late defensive stand to hold off the Buffs 28-25 in the season opener for both teams.
After the teams traded fumbles to start the game, Gateway started on a sustained drive that was interrupted for 30 minutes by a lightning delay. The Olys' quarterback Lance Savage capped off a 50-yard drive with a one-yard plunge and John Oquendo added the kick to put GHS up 7-0. Gateway would never trail.
Smoky Hill got on the board in the first as quarterback Trent Clay ran in from six yards out. The extra point missed and the Buffs trailed 7-6 after one.
At 8:48 in the second Calvin Weber took the ball off the left side for 27 yards and another Oquendo PAT made the score 14-6 Gateway. With just 16 seconds left, Isaac Fuqua capped a long Olympians' drive and Oquendo's third PAT of the game gave GHS a 21-6 lead at halftime.
Not to be outdone, Smoky Hill took the opening kickoff to near midfield. On the third play of the quarter, Isaiah Alexander took a pitch from Clay around the right side for 49 yards and a score. A two-point attempt failed, but Smoky Hill had cut into the Gateway lead 28-12.
Gateway's Fuqua answered for the Olympians on the next drive scoring from 15 yards out. Oquendo's PAT made it 28-12 Gateway with 5:29 left in the third.
After the kick and on the first play of the next possession, Alexander took another pitch, this time on the left side, for 75 yards and another score. After another failed two-point conversion, Gateway still led 28-18 with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams traded scoring chances in the fourth quarter, but until the 39-second mark, neither team could capitalize on its opponent's mistakes. Finally, Alexander took a pass from Clay through the Oly defense for 27 yards and Annika Edginton added the PAT to bring the Buffs to within 28-25.
Two attempts at an onside kick failed and Gateway left the field 1-0. Fuqua had 162 yards on 19 carries and the two TDs, while Savage was 16-93 with a score, Weber 19-61 and a touchdown, and Quintavis Styles 8-81. Savage was 1 of 5 passing for 22 yards.
For Smoky Hill, Alexander had 147 yards on six carries and the two TDs, while Clay added 23 yards on 9 carries and a score, and Tylor Brown added 12 yards on six carries. Clay was 15 of 22 for 190 yards, a score and an interception. Frank Thomas had 5 catches for 70 yards to lead all receivers.