The game, in what is becoming tradition between the two NECC powerhouses, was full of big plays and came down to the last play of the game before being decided.
On a rainy night from the start of the game, both teams played a scoreless first quarter before putting any points on the board.
Fairfield struck first on a 60 yard run from Cameron Kitson and an extra point made the score 7-0.
The Eagles came right back and tied the game on a Jay Petrie seven yard run around the right side. Parker Conrad kicked an extra point that knotted it up.
Fairfield scored again in the second quarter on a 36 yard pass reception to Brett Bumgartner, with the kick made it 14-7 at halftime.
Busco was again plagued by penalties that set them back at different points throughout the night, halting drives and giving them difficult field position.
Head coach Lee Etzler thought that the excitement of the game may have contributed to the mental breakdowns that caused the penalties. “I have no idea why we commit the penalties,” said Etzler. “The kids may just be amped up a little too much before they get settled down.”
And “get settled down” they did. In the third quarter senior fullback Jason Nicodemus started accumulating yards that would add to his total on the night (300 yards rushing on 36 carries) bruising his way down the field to score the sole touchdown in the third quarter on a seven yard run.
After an offside penalty on the extra point attempt by the Falcons, Busco sent in its offense to go for two. Senior Cory Miller ran it in the endzone putting the Eagles ahead for the first time in the game, 15-14 at the end of the third.
Then came the fourth quarter and a lot of excitement.
Both teams remained scoreless early in the quarter as Busco played another good night of defense. “I thought our defensive tackles, Eric Kuznar and Brient Hicks played well for us tonight,” said Etzler. “They played fast and kept the middle plugged up.”
In the next series Fairfield held the Eagles to a fourth down causing Busco to punt. The Falcons blocked the punt and after many players from both sides tried to cover the ball, it squirted into the endzone and was recovered by the Falcons for the touchdown, making the score 20-15. Fairfield then went for two trying to make it a seven point ball game and was denied by the Eagle D.
Busco came right back and scored on a 41 yard power run by Nicodemus making the score 21-20. “Jason is a good player,” said Etzler. “This is the first game that we gave him the ball that many times and he really showed up for us.”
The Eagles went for two and failed, keeping them on top by one point.
Fairfield then drove the ball down the field and got into field goal range. Their kicker, Eldon Burtsfield kicked a 24 yard field goal with 2:13 to go in the game putting Fairfield on top 23-20.
But, the Eagles wouldn’t be denied.
Taking the kickoff, Miller ran behind good blocking and streaked down Busco’s sideline all the way to their 20.
Nicodemus then ran the first play from scrimmage ten yards for a first down. Two plays later Junior Cody Conwell ran around the left side on a five yard run for the score with 6.3 seconds remaining. Busco made the two point conversion making the score 29-23 in favor of Busco.
With the way that the game was going, Busco fans held their breath as the the Eagles kicked off to the Falcons. Fairfield threw one desperation pass play and it was intercepted by sophomore corner Beau Barkley to seal the game and Busco’s chances for the championship.
“I wouldn’t say it was a good game,” said Etzler. “We still have some things to work on. It was definitely exciting,” he said.
The Eagles play the Lakeland Lakers (8-0) for the NECC championship this Friday at home. The game starts at 7 p.m.
This is the 50th year celebration of football at Busco and all of the players, as well as cheerleaders and band members have been invited to attend. A group picture will be taken at halftime.