Playing with big hearts and weathering numerous valleys that might have made other teams quit, the Buena Vista football team won its opener at J. Leslie Rollins Field Saturday afternoon in thrilling fashion, edging Gustavus Adolphus 37-34 in two overtimes.
The Beavers were down 14-0 with less than six minutes elapsed in the first quarter and 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
"Our kids just never gave up, and I told them after the game they had won this one with their hearts," said BV head coach Steve Osterberger after the game. "And I think all that conditioning in the heat paid off for us."
The Beavers owned the fourth quarter and the two overtimes. Though outsized by big Gustie defensive and offensive fronts, they won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
"We knew going into the overtimes that we had a good chance to win," said Osterberger.
He and his coaching staff were right. After the Beavers scored ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the tie, it was BV's explosive, big play ability that won it for them in the overtimes.
In the first overtime, shifty, strong-armed quarterback Eric Wiebers hit 6-foot-3 receiver Jesse Schmidt on a 17-yard reception in the left corner of the end zone. It was Schmidt's second scoring pass of the day, but not his most important.
The Gusties came right back and scored on their overtime possession on a five yard pass from quarterback Sean Smith to Shawn Naber. It came on a third down play from the five-yard line and could have taken the wind out of the sails of the Beavers.
Meanwhile, because of the overtime alternating possession rule, BV had to go right back on defense again, as the momentum appeared to be in the Gusties' favor.
"It was tough for our defensive team to go right back out there and try to stop them again," added Osterberger.
But the momentum was regained by the defense on the Gusties' first play of the second OT. Running back Drew Stifter, who gained 98 yards on 24 carries on the day, was stopped cold by the right side of the BV defensive line on an off-guard tackle play.
The Gusties lost a yard and faced a second and 11 and couldn't recover. On a third and four from the 19, Smith hit Stifter with a short pass but just a two yard gain. That set up a 32-yard field goal by Kase Niles and opened the door for the Beavers.
BV took full advantage. On their second overtime possession, a facemask penalty on first down gave them another first down at the Gusties' 13 yard-line. After a loss of one by halfback Barry VanVoorst, Wiebers rolled to his right and found Schmidt again in the right corner of the end zone for the win.
"We had some great play calling by our coaches," said Osterberger. "Jesse's a tall kid and he can really go up there and get the ball. Eric made some things happen with his scrambling ability and Jesse just had a super game."
The win capped an outstanding day for Wiebers and Schmidt. Wiebers hit on 21 of 34 passes for 238 yards while Schmidt had five catches for 118 yards.
His first catch of the afternoon might have been one of the game's biggest plays.
The Gusties had taken a 14-0 lead just six minutes into the first quarter on a long drive capped by a 12-yard pass from Smith to tight end Nick Taigland.
On BV's first offensive play from scrimmage, Gustie defender Tyler Vries broke through the BV offensive front, picked off an option pitch by Wiebers and ran in for the score from 30-yards out. With 9:19 left in the first quarter, BV trailed 14-0.
"It just took our kids a few minutes to get settled," added Osterberger. "We didn't have any scrimmages before our first game and we struggled a little early."
Not to worry.
The Beavers got on the board courtesy of Schmidt's big reception, a 60-yard scoring pass on a post-pattern from Wiebers with 4 minutes, 37 seconds to go in the first half. BV trailed just 14-7 after two quarters.
"At halftime, we told the kids to not panic and keep playing hard and they did," added Osterberger. "Our players just never gave up."
In the third quarter, Niles made a 31-yard field goal with 7:36 left in the frame for a 17-7 Gustie lead. But with 4:02 left in the third, the Beavers scored on a five-yard pass from Wiebers to Brandon Artist. That capped an 8-play, 68 yard drive that took just 3:11.
"We started getting our running game going in the second half," Osterberger said. "And defensively, we played well after their first two early scores. It was just a nice, all-around team effort by our kids."
But Gustavus came back with a touchdown late in the third quarter, that coming on a 4-yard pass from Smith to Nate Novak. The Gusties led 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
But early in the fourth quarter, the Beavers got to within one score when Ryan Hutton connected on a 39-yard field goal.
Gustavus-Adolphus drove to near midfield on its next possession, but on fourth down, Stifter came up two yards short on a fake punt and the Beavers took over at their own 42 with about nine minute remaining.
On the first play from scrimmage from that point, Wiebers connected with Schmidt on what looked to be a 58-yard scoring pass. Instead, the play was called back on a holding penalty and put BV back at it's own 27.
After an exchange of possessions, the Beavers took over at their own 35 but with just 4:53 left.
Aided by some medium-range passes by Wiebers and some tough running by VanVoorst, BV drove to the Gustie 1-inch line, where Wiebers snuck in with 2:06 remaining. Meanwhile, Hutton's extra-point kick forced overtime.
Up next for the BV gridders is Central next Saturday on the road in Pella.