By MATT PIKE
St. Joseph Post
GOWER- A jump from Class 1 to Class 2 hasn't slowed East Buchanan in its quest for a third straight football state championship.
The Bulldogs (11-0) claimed a third straight district title Friday night, defeating rival Mid-Buchanan, 21-0, in Gower.
East Buchanan relied on a big second half after most of the first half was scoreless with both teams exchanging punts and turnovers on downs.
The Bulldogs scored the first points of the game, however, in the final 30 seconds of the second quarter.
East Buchanan took over deep on their side with 2:50 left in the first half.
Facing a 4th down and 3, senior quarterback Gage Busby found fellow senior and receiver Aiden Hensley for a first down, putting East Buchanan in the red zone for the first time all game.
Aidan Smith then scored on a four-yard rushing touchdown, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 26 seconds left before halftime.
East Buchanan came out swinging to start the second half, getting the ball to start the third quarter.
On the first drive out of halftime, Busby scored on a two-yard touchdown run. Aidan Hensley then ran it in for a successful two-point conversion, putting the Bulldogs up 15-0 with 9:19 to go in the third.
Later on, after converting on 4th and 8, East Buchanan was driving deep into Dragon territory to start the fourth quarter.
Busby again kept it himself for a two-yard rushing score, putting East Buchanan up 21-0 with 11:55 remaining in the game.
Mid-Buchanan (8-4) had two more possessions in the fourth quarter. One ended with an interception in the endzone - the other with a turnover on downs.
East Buchanan head coach Dan Ritter says winning the district title yet again is a big feat, especially since this one came at the Class 2 level.
"This is a different ball game," Ritter said. "Like, these are the big dogs we're facing. I know it's Mid-Buch, but they're kind of a big dog, even though we were Class 1 last year."
"So, now we're going to have to go and face somebody, somebody who's done it, if Bowling Green wins, they did it last year and got to the semifinals in Class 2, so these guys can play."
East Buchanan will now play Bowling Green (12-0) on the road this Saturday in the Class 2 State Quarterfinals. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Busby says the key in the game against Bowling Green, and through the rest of the playoffs, is just to focus inward.
"Don't let the outside nonsense distract us, play our game, let us do what we do no matter who we play next week, no matter who we play the week after, if we're not playing the week after, we've just got to what we've got to do," Busby said.
East Buchanan extended their school record winning streak to 24 games. They've also beaten Mid-Buchanan in each of the last five meetings.