Passing game prolific, but Vandals struggle to find stops in loss

-A A +A
By Andrew Harner

VANDALIA – It’s been awhile since the Vandals had a passing performance like they got from junior Collin Nestleroad last Friday night.


But his offensive showcase wasn’t enough to propel the Vandals to their first win of the season, as an inability to stop Roxana on third down allowed the Shells to pile up points in a 49-36 win to spoil Vandalia’s homecoming night.

“Our offense showed it could put some points on the board,” said coach John Stout. “But we couldn’t get key stops the several times we had Roxana at third and 5 or third and 6.”

Nestleroad threw for a career-high 215 yards on six completions, connecting on three touchdowns – including a long of 57 yards to senior Dalton Smith – and throwing five passes of at least 33 yards.

The failure to stop Roxana on 10 of 13 third-down chances, however, would allow the Shells plenty of offensive opportunities.

Roxana (1-3) converted all seven of its third downs in the first half, leading to a 34-21 lead.

Of the three missed third downs in the second half, one was converted on fourth down, one led to a missed field goal and the last one resulted in a punt.

Stout said the struggles weren’t from a lack of trying.

“We tried basically everything in our package to get them shut down,” he said. “Their backs were doing a good job of sealing off our linebackers, and they kicked our end out to make a seam for the fullback.”

Blake Vandiver did most of the damage for the Shells, rushing for 179 yards and scoring four touchdowns – including on a 52-yard run and a 41-yard pass.

But Vandalia (0-4) had plenty of its own big plays, getting at least 40 yards on five occasions.

Three of those were passing plays, and the others were 45- and 41-yard runs by sophomore Bobby Bradley, who led the ground game with 122 yards on eight carries to bring his season total to 300 yards.

Junior Codie Jackson caught two of the passes – for 43 and 44 yards – and senior Wade Harre hauled in a pair of TDs on 33- and 35-yard strikes.

“When you spend all your time on defense in practice, it takes away from your offensive package,” Stout said. “Once we get scouted on film, we will have to have some answers to things people are going to do to stop the passing game.”

Vandalia has thrown for 387 yards this season – just 6 fewer than all of last season – but with Smith and senior C.J. Runkel back healthy in the backfield, the Vandals will look to become more dynamic.

Runkel had a season-high 11 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Smith added six carries for 62 yards and a score, and both of their contributions helped open up the big passing day.

Smith scored just 55 seconds into the game, running a sweep 39 yards for his first touchdown of the season, and the Vandals continued using the sweep play to fool Roxana’s defensive players.

“We were running the same action on the pass as the sweep,” Stout said. “We would run the same pattern and throw the ball out of it, and our early success with the sweep set up the pass.”

Runkel’s running from the fullback position allowed the Vandals to use play-action on several pass attempts.

Roxana quickly followed Smith’s touchdown, with an 11-play drive and a 16-yard touchdown pass and used a length kick return later in the first quarter to set up a 2-yard run, before opening the second quarter with a 27-yard touchdown run.

Runkel scored his first touchdown of the season five minutes later, plunging in from 4 yards out, but Roxana turned the next possession into a 41-yard touchdown pass and then forced a turnover to score on an 18-yard run with 32.7 seconds left in the first half.

After the ensuing kickoff return was stopped at the Vandalia 39-yard line, the Vandals moved into Roxana territory on two runs and a horse collar tackle penalty to set up one play from the 35-yard line with just a few seconds left.

Nestleroad connected with Harre as time expired, but both teams would score twice in the second half to keep the same final margin.

Friday, Sept. 20
Roxana 49
Vandalia 36
R: 13-21-8-7—49
V: 7-14-0-15—36

Scoring summary
First quarter
•11:05 – Dalton Smith (VHS) rushed for 39 yards (Smith kick); Vandalia 7, Roxana 0
•4:44 – Nick Hand (RHS) passed to Jake Palen for 16 yards (Levi Wallace kick); Vandalia 7, Roxana 7
•2:34 – Wallace (RHS) rushed for 2 yards (Wallace kick failed); Roxana 13, Vandalia 7
Second quarter
•9:14 – Blake Vandiver (RHS) rushed for 27 yards (Wallace rushed for 2-point conversion); Roxana 21, Vandalia 7
•4:01 – C.J. Runkel (VHS) rushed for 4 yards (Smith kick failed); Roxana 21, Vandalia 13
•2:08 – Chance Foss (RHS) passed to Vandiver for 41 yards (Wallace kick); Roxana 28, Vandalia 13
•0:32.7 – Wallace (RHS) rushed for 18 yards (Wallace kick failed); Roxana 34, Vandalia 13
•0:00 – Collin Nestleroad (VHS) passed to Wade Harre for 35 yards (Bobby Bradley rushed for 2-point conversion); Roxana 34, Vandalia 21
Third quarter
•6:30 – Vandiver (RHS) rushed for 10 yards (Foss passed to Wallace for 2-point conversion); Roxana 42, Vandalia 21
Fourth quarter
•8:30 – Nestleroad (VHS) passed to Smith for 57 yards (Smith kick); Roxana 42, Vandalia 28
•7:06 – Vandiver (RHS) rushed for 52 yards (Wallace kick); Roxana 49, Vandalia 28
•0:50 – Nestleroad (VHS) passed to Harre for 33 yards (Nestleroad passed to Harre for 2-point conversion); Roxana 49, Vandalia 36

Vandalia statistics
Rushing: Bradley, 8-122; Smith, 6-62, TD; Runkel, 11-56, TD; Nestleroad, 9-3; Rodney Tedrick, 1-1; Team, 35-244, 2 TD.
Passing: Nestleroad, 6-10, 215 yards, 3 TD, INT.
Receiving: Jackson, 2-87; Harre, 2-68, 2 TD; Smith, 1-57, TD; Tedrick, 1-3.
Defense: Runkel, 12 tackles, 4 assists, TFL assist; Dillon Tate, 5 tackles, TFL, 2 assists; Robby Lott, 3 tackles, TFL, 2 assists; Kendrick Woolsey, 3 tackles, TFL; Bradley, 3 tackles, assist; Tristin Long, 3 tackles, assist; Seth Purcell, 3 tackles; Tyler Dagen, 2 tackles, assist; Jackson, 2 tackles, assist; Harre, 2 tackles; Smith, TFL; Tucker Willms, tackle, 2 assists; Kolten Etcheson, tackle, TFL assist, assist; Jake Stone, assist; Austin Steele, assist.
Record: 0-4