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Vandals rout Roxana

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By Seth Whitehead

The only thing more overwhelming than the stench emanating from the oil refineries surrounding Charles Raich Stadium Friday night was the high-octane performance delivered by the visiting Vandalia football team in a dominating 48-0 victory over Roxana.

Make no mistake - the smell of burning fossil fuels does not bother the Vandals.

For the second time in as many weeks, VCHS overwhelmed its opponent in every facet of the game, leaving head coach John Stout in a mental state coaches rarely find themselves in - almost 100 percent content.

"Overall, it was just another very good performance, I thought," said Stout, whose team opened the season with a similarly thorough 55-12 thrashing of Sangamon Valley at home.

The final offensive numbers against the Shells were strikingly similar to those the Vandals racked up against the Storm, as VCHS piled up more than 400 yards of total offense for the second week in a row.

However, there was one distinct difference between the offensive performances.

After attempting just two passes in Week 1, Vandals quarterback Drew Bell completed 6 of 10 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns on Friday.

The Vandals were anxious to show they could pass the ball in such an effective fashion, and they wasted little time doing just that, as Bell found Mitch Whightsil for a 52-yard touchdown strike on the Vandals' very first play from scrimmage.

"We figured Roxana would load the box on us, just for the fact that we only threw two or three times against Sangamon Valley," Stout said. "And we told Drew, if they had a guy tight on Whightsil, we wanted to go deep on the first play."

Bell did just that. And though his pass was a bit of an under-thrown wobbler, Whightsil was able to backtrack slightly on his route, pulling in the pass in before outracing an overmatched defender to the end zone.

"That's one thing we've always known about Mitch," Stout said. "He's got great hands. If you get it near him, he's gonna catch it.

"It was a nice throw, a nice catch, and we were off to the races early."

Bell's passes would only get crisper as the night wore on, which, coupled with ability to run the ball, allowed the senior pile up 185 yards of total offense.

Taking advantage of a key block, Bell darted straight up the gut from 20 yards out to complete a 34-yard Vandals scoring march on their second possession.

Two possessions later, Bell quickly made up for an interception by capping a 51-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Whightsil on a backside post route.

Bell's fourth touchdown of the night was easily his most impressive score, as he appeared to be on the verge of being sacked before breaking free to the left side and diving into the corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run.

"At the last minute they stunted a guy in there," said Stout of a play that was originally designed to be a quarterback sneak, "but Drew had the wherewithal to bounce it out to the outside, and he made a nice run on it."

"Drew was just real solid. He's calm back there, and he's going to make good decisions."

One of those good decisions was taking what the Shells' defense was giving the Vandals.

"They did a good job of taking away our sweep and our veer-option that we had success with last week," Stout said. "But that opened that midline option up, and, man, I thought Drew and (Cody) McGee ran it well."

McGee set up the Vandals' final scoring drive of the half with a 13-yard run on a counter, with Jake Etcheson following directly thereafter with a 2-yard TD plunge.

Bell's fifth PAT in as many tries had the Vandals enjoying a 35-0 lead just before halftime.

And though the offense was impressive, the Vandals' defense deserves just as much credit for putting VCHS in such an enviable position at intermission.

VCHS's "D" was not just stopping the Shells - it was pushing them back.

Thanks to seven tackles for a loss - and a forced fumble recovered by the Vandals' Cody Cortelloni - the Vandalia had excellent field position on each of its first-half drives, starting deep in Roxana territory four times.

The Vandals' defensive line consistently beat the Shells off the ball, which - coupled with non-existent Roxana blocking - gave the home team's backfield little chance to get anything going.

"That's something coach Clay works a lot with the defense on," said Stout of getting off the ball. "I though we got off the ball really well - especially (Tim) Dunahee.

"It was a real good effort defensively."

Junior Caleb Walton was also relentless on defense, recording a team-best six solo tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage for a net loss of 20 yards.

The Shells finished with just 2 yards of total offense in the first half.

The Vandals opened the second half much like they closed the first, as McGee completed a 58-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.

McGee accounted for 51 yards on the drive on four carries, and he finished with 68 yards on seven carries for the game.

The lopsided score allowed Stout to get his second-string unit some varsity reps for the second time in as many weeks, and that group played admirably again.

"We found some more depth, I think," Stout said. "We got a lot of people a lot of snaps."

Drew Stewart was particularly impressive, rushing for a game-high 103 yards on nine carries - all coming in the second half.

The Shells had one last opportunity to break up the Vandals' shutout in the waning moments, but they fumbled the ball away on Vandalia's 11-yard line.

It was a perfect ending to a near perfect game for the Vandals... and a near-perfect start to 2008.

"I really couldn't (be happier)," Stout said.

And though the early portion of Vandalia's isn't shaping up to be the toughest - the Vandals' first three opponents are a combined 0-6 so far - Stout is taking nothing away from his team's performance so far.

"We're not beating these people 7-6 or 13-12," Stout said. "We've come out and done the things we've needed to do.

"We haven't been tested, but we'll see a few games down the road. Our kids have a lot of confidence right now. That's going to go a long way."

Notes: Friday's game was the Vandals' second straight shutout against Roxana, making it the ninth time in school history Vandalia has shut out a team in back-to-back seasons... the Shells have lost 37 of their last 38 games, including 14 in a row... This is the 12th time in 59 seasons the Vandals have started 2-0... The Vandals topped 400 yards in total offense in back-to-back games for the first time in school history... the Vandals have yet to punt this year.