BRIDGEPORT - A four-hour bus trip home from the Panhandle proved to be a sweet one after the Gibbon High School football team rallied for a 28-20 victory over Bridgeport on Friday afternoon.
The Buffaloes, who improved to 3-1 on the season, stormed back from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to keep the Bulldogs winless at 0-4.
"Going on a four-hour bus ride home with a win means a lot to our guys," Gibbon co-head coach Steve Yockey said. "We have a senior-led group and I'm really proud of them."
Bridgeport looked to be on the verge of a homecoming victory early in the second half.
Leading 14-7 at halftime, the Bulldogs' advantage quickly grew to 20-7 when quarterback Braxten Swires hooked up with Kason Loomis on a 42-yard touchdown strike on Bridgeport's first possession of the third quarter.
Gibbon responded with a 13-play drive that covered 67 yards to answer Bridgeport's touchdown. Senior quarterback Braxton Smith capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Konner Hyde to pull the Buffaloes back within 20-13.
This time Bridgeport looked like they would have an immediate answer by driving 44 yards in 14 plays down to the Buffaloes 23. However, Gibbon put a halt to the drive with an interception off a tipped pass.
Gibbon turned the turnover into points on the ensuing possession. Smith completed five passes, including on a fourth down, to lead the Buffaloes back to the end zone. His final pass of the 14-play, 61-yard drive was caught by Jacob Kucera and pulled Gibbon within 20-19 with just over two minutes to play.
Gibbon bypassed the potential tying point-after kick to go for the lead with a 2-point conversion. It paid off as Smith found Braden Miller with the go-ahead score.
After Bridgeport turned the ball over on downs, Gibbon needed just three plays to extend their advantage to 28-20. Smith tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the contest by finding Jace Bombeck from 23-yards away.
Down to just 58 seconds remaining in regulation, Bridgeport was held on downs after Gibbon's Brady Samuelson sacked Swires to put the Bulldogs well behind the chains.
Following two incompletions, Smith took a knee to run off the final seconds.
Smith finished the game completing 13 of his 23 passes for 165 yards.
Led by homecoming king Mason Nichols in the middle, Bridgeport managed to shut down the Gibbon running game. None of the Gibbon ball carriers rushed for more than 20 yards.
"We're a running team for sure, but they did a heck of a job shutting down our run," Yockey said. "They came out and punched us in the mouth, but our kids didn't quit."
The Bulldogs got off to a fast start by scoring on their first possession of the game. A 12-play, 75-yard drive was capped by a touchdown run from Loomis.
Bridgeport extended its lead to 14-0 late in the second quarter as the Bulldogs covered 55 yards in just eight plays. Swires' 1-yard sneak capped the scoring drive.