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Five to be inducted to VCHS Athletic HOF

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By Andrew Harner

VANDALIA – After a year with no inductees in 2013, Vandalia Community High School will induct four members and one team to its Athletic Hall of Fame prior to the Sept. 26 homecoming football game against Litchfield.

Individuals to be enshrined are: Dennis Whitten, Mike Hayner, Gary Plum and Jeff Mefford.

In addition, the 2008-09 girls basketball team will be inducted.

2008-09 GIRLS BASKETBALL

Led by eight seniors, the 2008-09 Vandalia Community High School girls basketball team used a potent offense and lockdown defense to lose just two games by a combined eight points, while posting school records for wins (28) and winning percentage (.933).

The Lady Vandals reached the Sweet 16 in the Illinois High School Association playoffs, but were ousted in the sectional finals by Olney with a 33-29 overtime loss in the Olney-East Richland Sectional, the loss snapping an 18-game winning streak and ending the season at 28-2.

Vandalia went undefeated in the East Division of the South Central Conference, earning the first conference title in school history, and successfully defended its championships at the Mattoon and Sandoval tournaments.

The Lady Vandals defeated state-ranked Teutopolis, 37-30, in the championship game of the Teutopolis Regional for the school’s first regional title since 1993.

In the final Associated Press state poll, Vandalia was ranked No. 4.

Seniors on the team were: Laura Hobbie, Shelby Cearlock, Cassie Warner, Amanda Walton, Ashley Durbin, Brittney Bennett, Rachel Hickerson and Kayla Houston, and the Lady Vandals were coached by Mike Butler.

DENNIS WHITTEN

In an era when a football defense’s primary concern was stopping the run game, 1965 Vandalia Community High School graduate Dennis Whitten still averaged nearly 5 yards per carry in his three-year career as fullback for the Vandals.

Whitten, who carried the ball 294 times for 1,460 yards and 15 touchdowns, was a leading player for the 1963 undefeated Mid-State Conference champions, and the 8-1 squad of 1964.

His career began as a sophomore in 1962, when he rushed 19 times for 96 yards, and he improved as a junior, carrying the ball 113 times for 488 yards and four touchdowns.

Whitten excelled during his senior year, gaining 875 yards and 11 touchdowns on 162 carries. In week seven, he had the best game of his career, with 274 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries in a 27-0 win against Shelbyville.

Statistics for one game in each 1963 and 1964 are missing, and aren’t included in Whitten’s career stat line.

MIKE HAYNER

During his senior season, 1977 Vandalia Community High School graduate Mike Hayner saved his best performances for the biggest games of the year.

He was a top receiver for the undefeated 1976 Mid-State Conference champion football team, and two games from that season stand out above the rest.

Hayner caught eight passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns in a pivotal 49-0 conference win against Effingham, and then had 10 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown in a quarterfinal playoff loss to eventual state champion Metamora.

His playoff stats would hold the Illinois High School Association Class 3A record until 1990.

In his career, Hayner caught 41 passes for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns. Most of that damage came as a senior, when he hauled in 37 passes for 729 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 37 receptions rank second all-time for a single season in Vandalia, and the 729 yards rank third – those stats coming while he split catches with fellow VCHS Hall of Famer Mike Orr.

Hayner was also a member of the VCHS basketball team that earned a regional championship in 1977.

JEFF MEFFORD

An honorable-mention all-state basketball player as a senior, 1983 Vandalia Community High School graduate Jeff Mefford led the school’s two best boys basketball teams of the 1980s.

As a junior, Mefford led the Vandals to championships in the Vandalia Sectional and Altamont Regional, giving Vandalia a sectional title for the first time since 1937.

Mefford earned all-conference honors after leading the 28-3 Vandals to the Mid-State Conference title, and the team also won the Vandalia Holiday Tournament and the Salem Tournament.

In his final season, Mefford paced the team in scoring as he led Vandalia to its seventh straight regional championship, but the 20-8 Vandals lost in the sectional finals.

He closed his career with 1,357 points, and was presented the James Littleford Award as a senior.

Mefford also played three seasons of baseball for the Vandals, and as a senior, he hit above .400 and made no errors on defense.

GARY PLUM

A four-sport star, 1967 Vandalia Community High School graduate Gary Plum could almost always be found participating in some form of athletics from 1964-67.

He was most prominent as a member of the 1966 and 1967 boys basketball teams, leading the Vandals in scoring and rebounding both seasons.

Plum was the third member of the 1,000-point club at VCHS, surpassing the milestone by one point by the end of the 1967 season.

A quick return man in football, Plum had a memorable run in each of Vandalia’s two wins in 1965.

In a season-opening 26-7 triumph against Mt. Vernon, Plum had a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and in a 13-0 win against Hillsboro, he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score.

Plum participated in a total of 15 seasons for the Vandals, with four years in football, basketball and track, and three years in baseball.