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For the Hillsboro Hilltoppers' class of 2010, their senior night will be one to forget, as Cory Bunker and Vandalia’s run game racked up more than 400 yards and five scores on the ground en route to a 35-21 victory.
The story of the game was Bunker, who hadn’t run for a touchdown since the Roxana game on Sept. 12. Friday night, however, Bunker was on a level that Vandal fans hadn’t seen all season. After just five carries he had more than 120 yards and two scores, in the first quarter. While Bunker couldn’t sustain the 20 yard per carry average, he was still able to cut and juke his way through Hillsboro’s defense all night. Though he didn't score after the first 12 minutes, his performance throughout the game set up three more Vandal rushing touchdowns.
Marty Johnson dropped back to pass only once, an 11-yard completion to Bunker, but the passing game wasn’t needed for the Vandals to even their record at 3-3 and pick up a victory in a must-win game.
“I thought our kids just did a fantastic job from the start,” Coach John Stout said. “We talked all week about getting that energy and emotion we had against Litchfield in the second half and playing four quarters, and I think for the first time all year we did play four quarters. And we played almost mistake free. It was just a great job by our kids tonight.”
Bunker was in the end zone 1:28 into the game on a 34-yard run, his second run of 30 or more yards on the drive. The extra point was no good.
After a 3-and-out by Hillsboro, Vandalia’s offense moved down the field with ease, and Bunker got the call on a 5-yard touchdown run to put Vandalia up 13-0.
Hillsboro’s offense got on a roll during its second possession. The Hilltoppers picked up four first downs, including one on fourth-and-10 from the 22-yard line that put them inside the 5-yard line. They would run the ball in from there getting on the board with two minutes left in the first quarter, 13-7.
After Vandalia turned the ball over on downs around the Hillboro 40-yard line, a slew of penalties by the Vandal defense moved the ball into Vandalia territory. The defense would end up getting a big stop on fourth down several plays later, giving the ball back to the offense.
Drew Stewart would get most of the carries on Vandalia's ensuing drive, including a 15-yard run that put the Vandals inside the 20. Stewart would run the ball in from the 2-yard line to put Vandalia up 20-7, following the PAT.
The Vandals defense was able to force and a recover a fumble with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, but the offense couldn’t move the ball and would punt with three minutes remaining in the half.
Hillsboro opened the second half, looking like a new team. The Hilltoppers would put up 14 points in the third quarter and hold a 21-20 lead at one time. On their opening drive, the Toppers were able to move the ball into Vandal territory and run the ball in from 10-yards out, just three minutes in, making it a 20-14 game.
While Hillsboro came out pumped up, Vandalia came out for the second half flat. The Vandals fumbled on their first play of the third quarter. The Hilltoppers took advantage of the field position and scored three plays later. Hillsboro took a 21-20 lead after the PAT, with 6:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Vandalia was only trailing for five minutes and 20 seconds, as on its next drive the Vandals moved the ball 54 yards to take a 26-21 lead. Johnson ran the ball in from the 1-yard line. They elected to go for the 2-point conversion and Johnson found Daniel Bell in the end zone to go up 28-21.
Vandalia’s defense was able to keep the Hilltoppers out of the end zone for the final 14 minutes of the game and Tyler Vosholler broke a 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the Vandals up 35-21.
“We talked all week about establishing the run and going back to our style of football and controlling the clock and playing good defense,” Stout said.
Bunker had 272 rushing yards and two scores on the night. Bunker’s performance is Vandalia's fifth best all-time in rushing yards in a game. He is the first Vandal to rush for 200 or more yards since Travis Blain set the school record in 1997 at Pana with 294 yards on 50 carries. Bunker had just 27 carries.
“Cory just ran hard, and when Cory, gets going he’s hard to stop,” Stout said.
Stewart had 55 yards on 11 carries and Vosholler had 62 on seven touches. Each had a touchdown.
Ryan Thiele, Aaron Coney and Jake Whalen each had 10 tackles. Bell was the high man with 11.
This was Vandalia’s third consecutive win against Hillsboro. The Hilltoppers won the previous nine matches. This is the third time in school history the Vandals have beaten Hillsboro three years in a row, they also beat them three straight years from 1963-65 and 1975-77. However, Vandalia is still lagging behind with a record of 17-41-2 all-time against the Hilltoppers.
The Vandals return home for their next two games. Friday they face Southwestern. The Birds are 3-3 this season; their three wins have come against the same three teams Vandalia had beaten, Hillsboro, EA Wood River and Roxana. Southwestern runs a pretty balanced offense with a mix of pass and run plays. They have had success on the ground and in the air.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Vandalia.