Vandalia started with two quick touchdowns against Greenville last Friday, but injuries to two starters allowed Greenville to snatch the momentum and earn a 28-12 victory.
Senior quarterback/defensive back Tim Ritchey was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on a late hit from Greenville’s Brandon Duncan, suffering fractures to his T1 and T2 vertebrae, and junior linebacker C.J. Runkel tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first half.
“We lost two of our starters on defense, but I still think we did a good job of shutting (running back Cameron) Walter down,” said coach John Stout. “Two of their scores came on short fields and one came on a kick return, so I thought our defense played hard.
“We just don’t seem to get the breaks against them.”
Vandalia senior Ryan Ambuehl rushed for his 1,000th yard of the season on the first play of the game, a 35-yard scamper, helping to set up his own 8-yard touchdown just 2:34 into the game.
He finished the game with 103 yards on 15 carries, and has 1,079 yards this season.
“Really, it hasn't even been in the front of my mind,” Ambuehl said. “It's an accomplishment, but I'm thinking more of the team than myself.”
After a Greenville three-and-out, the Vandals (7-2) needed just one play – a 64-yard dash by Ritchey – to move ahead, 12-0, just 1:10 after their first touchdown. Ambuehl failed to convert the point-after kick on each score.
“At the start, we thought we could power them until they blitzed, so we could start running outside,” Stout said.
Any momentum that the Vandals got from Ritchey’s touchdown was quickly erased, however, as Duncan returned the ensuing kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown, the longest score against the Vandals this season.
“The kickoff return deflated us,” Stout said. “It turned the momentum around in their favor.”
Three drives later, the Vandals chipped away at the Comet defense, getting to the Greenville 9-yard line by the end of the first quarter, but a fourth-and-12 play from the 14-yard line could not be converted.
No damage was done, though, because Ritchey recovered a fumble at the Vandalia 22-yard line to stall Greenville’s next drive.
Ritchey converted a third-and-long with a 39-yard pass to Ambuehl, but on the next set of downs, the Vandals came inches short of getting a first down at the Greenville 33-yard line.
Greenville (8-1) needed just six plays to get a 33-yard passing touchdown from Tyler Hutchinson to Austin Lawrence. Runkel was injured during the point-after kick.
The late hit from Duncan ruined what probably would have been a race to the finish, taking Ritchey out seven plays into the second half. Senior Wade Cowger replaced him at quarterback.
Greenville added a 6-yard touchdown run from Walter and a 1-yard score from Hutchinson to make the final margin and give the Comets a share of the South Central Conference championship.
Walter carried the ball for 159 yards, and he has 1,505 on the season.
Prior to the game, the large senior class was honored, and Stout said he is happy that the game wasn’t the end of the season or the final home game.
“We do have the playoffs, so it’s not like we are 4-4,” he said. “Our kids did want this bad, but gosh, it seems like every time we play these guys, a good player gets hurt.”
Rushing: Ambuehl, 15-103, TD; Ritchey, 10-89, TD; Alex Newsom, 7-23; Luke Smith, 10-13; Cowger, 3-(-3); Team, 45-225.
Passing: Ritchey, 4-8, 80 yards; Cowger, 0-9, 2 INT; Ambuehl, 0-1.
Receiving: Ambuehl, 3-72; Smith, 1-8.
Defense: Jeff Lucken, punt block, TFL, TFL assists, 2 tackles, 3 assists; Levi Carroll, INT, 5 tackles, assist; Ritchey, fumble recovery, pass deflection; Smith, 3 tackles, TFL, 3 assists; Woolsey, 5 tackles, 2 assists; Cowger, 3 tackles, TFL; Newsom, TFL, 4 assists; Ambuehl, 3 tackles, 3 assists; Michael Wells, TFL assist, tackle, 3 assists, QB hurry; Tristin Long, 2 tackles, assist; Rodney Tedrick, tackle; Collin Nestleroad, tackle; Dalton Smith, tackle; Runkel, 2 assists; Colton Evans, assist.