This Friday when the East Buchanan Bulldogs (4-6) arrive in Faucett to take on the Mid-Buchanan Dragons (9-1) in the Missouri Class 1, District 7 semifinals, it will mark the fourth year in a row the two rivals have played each other twice in the same season.
It will also be the eighth meeting between the two since 2016, which is the most head-to-head meetings between any two KCI Conference teams in that time.
In 2016, the Bulldogs rolled in the regular season, 44-7, before eliminating the Dragons in the semifinals of district play, 34-7. The following year, the results were eerily similar, with East Buchanan winning in the regular season, 44-13, before eliminating Mid-Buchanan in the first round of district play, 34-20.
Last season, East Buchanan came from behind to win an overtime thriller during the regular season, 34-28, before Mid-Buchanan snapped a losing streak that dated back to 2009 with their 42-20 victory in the Missouri Class 1, District 7 semifinals.
The victory over their rivals was a signature moment for Mid-Buchanan on their way to a Missouri Class 1 Semifinals appearance, and something head coach Aaron Fritz knows boosted his players' confidence in their deep playoff quest.
“It was a huge victory for us,” Fritz said. “Our kids had continued to work very hard and when we were finally able to secure that win in the district semifinals, I think it gave the kids that feeling that the hard work that they had been putting in was finally paying off.”
Earlier this season, Mid-Buchanan made it two in a row against East Buchanan, dispatching the Bulldogs, 46-6.
Opposing Coach Fritz Friday night will be East Buchanan head coach Kevin Bryan. As the second-longest tenured coach in the KCI, Coach Bryan has had much success in the Battle of the Buchanans. Entering Friday night’s contest, East Buchanan teams led by Coach Bryan are 13-3 against the Dragons. The familiarity and competitiveness between the two schools and communities is something Coach Bryan feels transcends beyond the gridiron.
“There have been so many meaningful games between the two schools in all sports,” Bryan said. “There have been great battles in volleyball, softball, basketball, football and baseball, so the intensity is really hyped up between the two schools.”
The two coaches, through their eight battles against one another (Fritz took over the Mid-Buchanan program in 2015), have garnered a level of respect for each other that is apparent when discussing the programs.
“Coach Fritz has done a great job of getting those kids to buy into playing hard and playing fast,” Bryan said. “It is important to both towns and the communities that the football teams be competitive and have success, and Coach Fritz has really instilled that mindset.”
“It all starts with Coach Bryan,” Fritz said. “He does a tremendous job of getting the kids to buy in and getting them prepared to play hard. He is a great leader and is someone people want to follow. As I have gotten to know their coaching staff over my five years here, I can definitely see why that program is and continues to be successful.”
For for the coaches, the rivalry is great because of the sense of community and continued development of their programs, but for the players, it's all about unadulterated competition, and when it comes to these two teams, the undisputed leaders on the field are quarterbacks Tucker White and Javan Noyes.
East Buchanan senior Tucker White has been the Bulldogs' do-it-all player all season. He has seen time at quarterback and wide receiver while also being one of the leading tacklers on the Bulldogs defense. So far this season, White has passed for 767 yards and thrown seven touchdowns while carrying the ball for 839 yards with 17 rushing scores. He is also second on the team in tackles with 80.
For White, this will be the ninth time participating in the Battle of the Buchanans and having seen the ebbs and flows of the rivalry these past few years, he knows the level of competition is at its peak when the Bulldogs and Dragons meet on the football field.
“This is a special rivalry because the competitiveness that builds within both teams upon playing against each other,” White said. “That competitiveness makes it anyone’s ball game on any given night.”
Junior Javan Noyes is the three-year starter and leader of the Dragon offense. So far this season, he has been one of the most dangerous players in the KCI Conference, passing for 1,649 yards with 16 touchdowns while also running for 931 yards with 15 touchdowns.
Friday will mark his eighth time competing against the Bulldogs and having felt defeat and now victory within the rivalry, Noyes is now driven to extend the Dragons win streak to three games.
“Winning last year was really important because it showed our team that we can compete and beat them,” Noyes said. “This rivalry is special because we always want to beat them just like they always want to beat us. So, we’re always going to give them our best shot and they’re always going to give us theirs.”
The quarterbacks aren’t the only dynamic players that will be featured Friday night. Both teams have a pair of explosive players that can provide their team with big plays.
Junior T.J. Runyan has produced over 1,200 yards of total offense and has scored 17 touchdowns for Mid-Buchanan this season, while senior Christian Scaggs has over 400 receiving yards with four touchdowns of his own. These two lead a dangerous group of skill players that for which Coach Bryan knows it will be hard to prepare.
“Mid-Buchanan has a great set of skill position kids, so you can’t just key on one player, and their front line gets off the ball well and stays with their blocks. We will need to get lined up correctly to all of their formations and make sure we are physical and tackle well,” Bryan said.
East Buchanan senior Owen Fortney has been a dual threat this season for the Bulldogs. He has run the ball for 368 yards to go along with his 385 receiving yards and has scored 17 total touchdowns. Fellow senior Darrin Griffin has rushed for over 200 yards this season and is a threat on special teams with over 300 return yards to his name.
Coach Frits knows that they are just two of the plethora of Bulldogs who make the East Buchanan offense dangerous. “They are very well coached. Their offense has continued to be explosive all season and they are running the ball as well as anyone. Add that to a very dangerous passing game and it is a very difficult offense to prepare for,” Fritz said.
Will Mid-Buchanan earn their third victory in a row and continue their emergence as the top dog in the rivalry? Or will East Buchanan slay the dragon, returning them to the top in the Battle of the Buchanans? Friday night will tell.