Wildcats bowl over shorthanded Bucks 46-12 in opening round of SPFL playoffs

LAKE BENTON – The stakes were raised Saturday for the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats as they opened the Southern Plains Football League playoffs, but their first round opponent didn’t seem to notice. The North Iowa Bucks only brought 11 players to Lake Benton and were soundly defeated 46-12 in the nine-man game.

The Wildcats (6-2 overall) opened up a 33-0 lead over the Bucks by halftime against a team that played its opening series with big No. 99 Travis Campbell playing quarterback instead of his normal spot on the line. It was a clear mismatch and the Wildcats were a little disappointed they weren’t able to kick off the playoffs against a more formidable opponent.

“We played alright, but it’s so hard for the guys to get fired up because they knew after our first offensive series that it was going to be pretty easy,” Wildcats coach Mike Tiedeman said. “We could play a lot better. It’s one of those things where the better the team we play against, the better we are.”

Buffalo Ridge scored quickly on its opening possession, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Joey Nelson to TJ Newgard, who was wide open down the right sideline.

Even when the Bucks had a play covered, they still struggled to get a stop. With the ball near the Bucks 20-yard line, Buffalo Ridge running back John Niesen went left and evaded a defender with a juke in the backfield, then broke a pair of tackles running down the sideline and found his way into the end zone with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Niesen finished the game with eight rushes for 110 yards and three scores.

“He’s a heck of running back; Never stops,” Tiedeman said of Niesen. “His feet are always moving.”

After Buffalo Ridge picked off a Bucks pass to start the second quarter, the Wildcats needed just one play to find the end zone. Nelson threw a pass over the top of the gassed defense, finding Brett Delaney for a 40-yard touchdown strike. Nelson ended the game 8-for-11 passing for 174 yards and three scores.

Less than a minute later, the Bucks went for it on fourth down from their own 1-yard line and coughed up a fumble that was scooped up returned six yards for a touchdown by Buffalo Ridge defensive lineman Jereme Burch to make the score 27-0.

The Bucks scored twice in the second half, but never posed a threat to the Wildcats.

Though many of North Iowa’s possessions were three-and-outs, Buffalo Ridge’s Travis Lustfield managed to finish the game with 11 tackles and a sack to lead the team defensively.

The Wildcats, seeded third in the tournament, advance to face The Panic out of Nicollet, who are seeded fifth. The game will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday back at West Side Field in Lake Benton.

Buffalo Ridge is eager to get a shot at The Panic after losing to them 22-14 on May 11.

“That’s one of our losses this year so it’s one of the teams we want to play again,” Tiedeman said. “We played like crap and I think we only had 19 or 20 guys there.”

NIB0 0 6 6-12

BRW14 19 7 6-46

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

BR-TJ Newgard 37 pass from Joey Nelson (Dana Moore kick), 9:49

BR-John Niesen 20 run (Moore kick), 4:45

Second Quarter

BR-Brett Delaney 40 pass from Nelson (Moore kick), 11:30

BR-Jereme Burch 6 fumble return (kick fail), 9:09

BR-Niesen 7 run (kick fail), 0:11

Third Quarter

NI-Marquis Shaw 7 pass from Manual Hernandez (extra point fail), 8:40

BR-Niesen 37 run (Moore kick), 3:00

Fourth Quarter

NI-Shaw 78 pass from Hernandez (run fail), 8:46

BR-Newgard 17 run (kick fail), 2:52

Buffalo Ridge Individual Statistics

Passing (comp-att-yards-INT): Joey Nelson 8-11-174-0.

Rushing: John Niesen 8-110, TJ Newguard 1-17.

Receiving: Newgard 1-37, Delaney 1-40.

Tackles: Travis Lustfield 11.

Sacks: Lustfield.