The No. 2 ranked Cody football team (3-0) gutted out a 14-6 gritty road win over Buffalo on Friday night.
The defense overcame four Cody turnovers and prevented the Bison from scoring until the last two minutes of the game.
After a score late in the first quarter, it was not until a Drew Trotter rushing score early in the fourth that the Broncs got a little breathing room.
Special teams and defense were huge for Cody throughout the night with Nic Talich booting four punts longer than 30 yards, and the defense hauling in three key sacks preventing Buffalo from finding any offensive rhythm.
It was the first road game of the year for the Broncs, leaving them undefeated after completing the nonconference slate. They still have plenty to clean up before entering 3A West conference play, having committed three fumbles and six penalties for 41 yards in the game. The Broncs were able to move the ball against the Bison defense but couldn’t capitalize on many of the drives.
“We were a little undisciplined at times and had a few turnovers, but bottom line we won the game,” McFadden said. “We’re right where we want to be.”
The game was a grind from start to finish, as both teams traded possessions on two consecutive offensive series to open the game.
Cody struck first when Jack Schroeder scored on a 56-yard rush on the first play from scrimmage with 2:16 left in the first. Schroeder slowed down behind a blocking teammate as a hole opened. With the opening in sight, Schroeder made a hard cut to his right, darting through the hole with nothing but open field in front of him.
“I just tried sprinting as long as I could,” Schroeder said. “I had to take a few sips of water after that one.”
Late in the second with the Broncs at the Buffalo 40, Nic Talich fumbled when a Bison defender punched the ball from his grasp.
But the Bison could not capitalize and the Broncs dodged their first bullet.
Another one was soon to come.
The Broncs got the ball back with 2:10 remaining at their own 9-yard line. They got one first down before Caleb Prior was hit as he was throwing a deep pass, causing him to underthrow the ball, which was intercepted by Buffalo’s Calvin Rule. Rule brought the ball all the way back to the Cody 9 before being tackled as time expired.
The Broncs defense held Buffalo to just one first down in the first half, and the Bison only crossed into Cody territory twice.
Chaz Cowie misplayed and bobbled a punt return for a fumble early in the third, but Talich snatched an interception on a pass over the middle on the next play.
Midway through the quarter, Jace Grant got a huge third-down sack and then Remy Broussard tackled Jace Skovgard on the fourth-down punt to set up the Broncs deep in Bison territory.
However, Luke Talich fumbled the ball on the next possession for the Broncs fourth turnover of the game.
At 9:06 in fourth, the Bison went for it on fourth-and-8 from the 23-yard line but cornerback Matt Nelson disrupted the pass to force a key turnover-on-downs.
Nelson had trained with NFL safety Marcus Epps during the summer.
“It has (helped) a lot, just with the foot skills and technique,” Nelson said.
With the ball back on offense, Cowie exploded for a 42-yard rush around the corner, bringing the Broncs to the 12-yard line.
Drew Trotter then scored on a 13-yard pitch with 7:21 to go and Jackson Gail nailed the PAT to make it 14-0, capping off a four-play, 77-yard drive.
The Broncs would not score again but effectively burned 4 minutes of game time later in the fourth, leaving the Bison little time to rally.
Buffalo did finally make something happen offensively in the game’s waning minutes when Blake Bell caught a wide-open 77-yard touchdown reception with 1:15 remaining. After a missed PAT it was 14-6.
The comeback was too little too late as the Broncs kneeled it out on offense for the remainder after recovering Buffalo’s onside kick attempt.
Cody finished with 227 total yards. Caleb Pryor was 6-for-15 with 50 passing yards.
Schroeder finished the game with 69 rushing yards to lead the team. Linebacker Nic Talich had 6.5 tackles on defense in addition to his interception.
McFadden said he thinks Nic Talich is the best football player in the state.
“He’s the best at offense, defense, special teams – he just loves football,” McFadden said. “He’s extremely physical … a lot faster than people think.”
The Bison were held to negative-5 second half rushing yards.
“It felt like that game was all about defense,” Nelson said. “We were pretty solid, played well the whole game.”
The Broncs will play their Park County rival, the Powell Panthers (3-0), next Friday in Powell for the Big Horn Brawl. With the memory of the Panther’s 2019 upset win over the Broncs in the playoffs still fresh in the players’ minds, Ethan Asher coaching on the Powell sidelines, and it being a rivalry game in the year of COVID-19, the matchup will be a momentous occasion for both teams.
“I don’t think they’ll have a tough time being motivated,” McFadden said. “Just focusing on one year ago when we lost that game – that will be the driving factor in the locker room.”
Broncs 14 Bison 6
Cody 7 0 0 7- 14
Buffalo 0 0 0 6- 6
Cody individual stats:
Top rushers: Schroeder 4-for-69; Cowie 4-53; Cody Phillips 3-33; Nic Talich 7-32; Drew Trotter 3-20
Top receivers: Cowie 2-21; Phillips 2-19
Top passer: Prior 6-15-50