HELENA — Timberlake’s 28-22 victory over Buffalo in District C-1 last season was a classic with the Tigers scoring the winning touchdown on a 66-yard pass from Ethan Jenlink to Merric Judd late in the game.
The rematch in Saturday’s Class C semifinals at Buffalo at 4 p.m. could be a rerun. The game was moved from Friday to Saturday after 14 inches of snow fell in Buffalo on Wednesday. If Buffalo can’t get the field ready in time (which will be determined Friday morning), the game would be moved to Timberlake’s home field in Helena
Both teams have most of their key players back. Jenlink had touchdown passes of 95 and 66 yards to Judd and 81 yards to J.J. Pippin, who had a five-yard run in last year’s contest. Buffalo returns Colton Eskew, who had runs of 27 and 62 yards and Brenden Bowles, who had a six-yard scoring run.
Jenlink threw for 336 yards. Buffalo ran for 370.
No. 1 Timberlake (11-0) has outscored opponents, 648-132 with only three games going the distance. It eliminated No. 5 Waynoka, 50-30 last week. Buffalo (11-1) has lost only to Class B Cherokee, 36-18 in a game that was hastily scheduled after the Bison’s game with Corn Bible was canceled. They have outscored opponents, 506-150. They eliminated co-No. 5 Saskawa, 60-14 last week.
“It was nip and tuck from start to finish last year and this is going to be too,’’ said Timberlake coach Brian Severin. “I think it will be a high scoring game. It might come down to whoever has the ball last.’
Timberlake held off Buffalo at the end last year. The past three games in C-1 lit up the scoreboard — Timberlake, 58-56 in 2016 and Buffalo, 76-50 in 2017 and 48-0 in 2018. The Tigers reached the semifinals in both 2017 and 2019 while Buffalo was ousted in 2018.
“We have a big challenge in front of us, but when you get to this point of the year, it’s what you expect,’’ Severin said. “We’re not going into this completely blind.’’
Eskew and Bowles rotate at quarterback in a Wildcat-like formation. Eskew had touchdown runs of 10, 75, 10, 46 last week while Bowles had scoring runs of 5, 15 and 21 yards.
Severin said it’s a similar situation to last week when the Tigers faced Waynoka’s Casen Olson, who had 85 yards on 21 carries.
“Both of them run really hard and really fast,’’ Severin said. “It’s the same deal as last week. We will have to tackle the quarterback and keep him contained.’’
Pippin, assigned to shadow Olson on defense, did a solid job, Severin said. The Tigers, though, showed the rust from not playing for three weeks (Timberlake had two forfeits to open the playoffs).
“You sure could tell we were a little rusty,’’ Severin said. “We came out and won and did what we had to do to knock the rust off. If we don’t play better this week, we’re done. We had too many penalties (eight for 75 yards) and too many missed assignments. That comes with the kids getting out of a routine. Not playing for three weeks is tough to do for the kids.’’
Jenlink was nine of 15 passing for 171 yards and two TDs and threw his first interception since Week 1. He has thrown for 28 scores this season. Judd had five receptions for 117 yards and one score to give him 21 for the season.
Pippin had 29 carries for 253 yards and four TDs to give him 28 for the year.
“Ethan missed some early, buy we settled down,’’ Severin said. “The offensive line did a good job. We were able to fine tune some things and go attack.We will try to get the lead early, that’s especially important on the road. We will have to scratch and hold on.’’
“We were just a little fuzzy at first on defense,’’ coach Severin said, “but we settled into a routine. Waynoka is a good tam.’’
Severin welcomed a competitive contest. The Wildcats had won nine straight games by 30 or more points after holding off Covington-Douglas, 54-48 in the season opener Aug. 27.
“It was good to see the kids face adversity and respond,’’ Severin said. “The boys love to compete. So far we have responded well in those situations.’’
Buffalo will have a size advantage over Timberlake, but the Tigers have the edge in speed.
“In 8-man, you would rather have speed than size,’’ Severin said.
The Tigers got a boost last week with the return of cornerback-wide receiver Cameron Brewer.
“He’s a good little wide receiver,’’ Severin said. “It’s another weapon to throw the ball to.’’
Severin had hoped the game would be at a neutral site, preferably Alva. Northwestern Oklahoma State had given its OK to have the game there.
Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, after having neutral sites for 6A semifinals, decided home field would be decided by a coin flip. Buffalo won so Timberlake is going west on two buses.
“I don’t know why it can’t be at a neutral site,’’ coach Severin said. “It’s what’s been done in the past. Everything is blamed on the virus. It is what it is. We’ll go and see what happens. We’ll stop in Alva to eat. It’s not that bad at all.’’
The Tigers had good practices this week, Severin said.
Timberlake last reached the finals in 2009 when it defeated Seiling, 38-16.
The winner Saturday faces the winner between No. 2-ranked Mountain View-Gotebo and Midway on Dec. 13 at NWOSU for the championship.
Timberlake leads the overall series, 9-3. The two teams have never met in the playoffs.
“That would be neat,’’ Severin said about the chance to play for a state title next week. “I know we were extremely disappointed last year (48-8 loss to eventual champion Pond Creek-Hunter). We don’t want to go through that again. We want to play another week.’’