GREENVILLE — Heartbreak.
That’s how the Vandalia Community High School football team’s 2015 season ended Friday night, falling to the Greenville Comets, 50-49, coming up a win short of clinching its second consecutive playoff berth.
The Vandals missed a 22-yard field goal attempt that would have given them two-possession lead with less than two minutes to play.
Instead, the Comets took over from their own 20-yard line down seven points without any timeouts. A 25-yard completion from Comet quarterback Ryan Hutchinson set them up near midfield.
Vandalia picked up a sack on second down that set up a third and long for Greenville, which led to a controversial call that shifted the momentum drastically on the next play. Marcus Zimmerman contested with a Greenville wide-out down the right sideline as Hutchinson heaved a pass that sailed over the intended target, seemingly setting up a third and long for the Comets.
However, Zimmerman was flagged for unnecessary roughness, giving the Comets the ball at the Vandals 35-yard line.
“I don’t know – I thought it didn’t need to be called,” Vandalia head coach John Stout said dejected. “It just wasn’t a very good call.“
A pair of runs followed by a short completion set up Greenville at the 12. From there, Hutchinson delivered the dagger, a 12-yard touchdown pass and subsequent pass for the go-ahead two-point conversion with only 8.2 seconds left.
A couple of Hail Mairy attempts from Vandalia brought the game to a close, with both teams finishing the season at 4-5.
“Everybody is kind of stunned right now. We didn’t have a whole lot to say; we have time for that later. We know how we feel about each other; it didn’t need to be said tonight,” Stout said describing the scene in the post game-huddle.
The South Central Conference showdown began the same way it ended – with a lot of offense.
Greenville came out on the opening drive and went nine plays for 55 yards, ending the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hutchinson to sophomore Christian Moss. A two-point conversion gave the Comets an 8-0 lead with 10:15 in the first quarter.
Both teams followed up with three-and-outs, with Vandalia starting its second drive of the game from its own 11 thanks to an illegal block during a Greenville punt.
The long field would not stop the Vandals, as Kelly Jones was able to connect with Marcus Durbin on a 59-yard pass, his first completion of the season, putting Vandalia at Greenville’s 26-yard line.
Bobby Bradley was able to punch it in from two yards out a few plays later to put the Vandals on the board. A successful two-point conversion brought the score to 8-8 with 3:14 in the first.
Despite the high-scoring affair, the Vandals’ defense was able to get constant pressure all night, as Eli Bowen forced a Hutchinson fumble on Greenville’s next possession, with Kolton Etcheson recovering at the Comets 37.
Bradley took advantage of the short field, scoring on an 11-yard run to give the Vandals a 15-7 lead with 11:53 left in the first half.
The Vandals defensive pressure continued on the next drive, as Bobby Moore wrapped up Hutchinson, who desperately tried to throw the ball away. However, Etcheson was right there to haul it in for his first interception of the season.
Bradley’s hot start continued, as he broke free for runs of 39 and 20, respectively, with the latter being his third touchdown of the half to give Vandalia a 21-8 lead with 9:57 left in the half.
With the Vandals pulling away, Hutchinson was able counter quickly with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brady Simpson to cut the Vandal lead to 21-14 with 8:37 in the half.
A Vandalia fumble on the ensuing drive gave Greenville the ball right back at the Vandals 38-yard line. Hutchinson made quick work of the defense once again, connecting with Dawson Chesnut on a 31-yard score. A failed run on the two-point conversion allowed Vandalia to hold onto a 21-20 lead with 7:15 in the half.
Richie Well threw an interception on the next drive, shifting the momentum further into Greenville’s favor as they started another drive in Vandal territory.
However, Zimmerman was able to come up with a clutch interception on a fourth-down pass, returning it all the way to the Comets 11-yard line. The Vandals could not take advantage, as they were stopped short on fourth down, only four yards from the end zone with less than a minute left in the half.
The Vandals would hang onto the one-point lead going into halftime.
The shootout took a short break, as Vandalia received the kickoff to start the second half and was quickly forced to punt from its own 47, thanks in part to a trio of false starts.
The Vandals were able to get the ball right back, as Zimmerman hauled in his second interception of the game, returning it to the Comets 13-yard line. A couple of Bradley runs set Well up for a 1-yard touchdown sneak to extend the Vandalia’s lead to 28-20 with 7:27 in the third quarter.
A quick three and out from the Comets on the ensuing drive set the Vandals up in Comet territory once again and Garrett McNary was able to punch it in from a yard out, giving the Vandals a 35-20 lead.
Greenville answered on the next drive, as Hutchinson and Simpson hooked up for the second time of the game on a 28-yard pass, cutting the Vandal lead to 35-28 with 1:12 remaining in the third.
The shootout continued, as the Vandals marched 63 yards down the field on five plays, capping it off with another McNary 1-yard touchdown. The successful PAT put the Vandals up 42-28 with 11:37 left to play.
Greenville continued to play strong from behind, as it would not let the Vandals pull away, scoring on a 2-yard run from senior Ty Sexton. A successful run for a two-point conversion brought the score to 42-36 with 9:51 left to play.
The Comets pulled off an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, successfully recovering the ball at the Vandalia 46. They quickly took advantage, putting together a five-play 46 yard drive, scoring on a 1-yard run by junior Seth Moore. A failed two-point conversion brought the game to a 42-42 tie.
With the momentum seemingly on Greenville’s side, Vandalia quickly stole it back on the next drive, as Well connected with Marcus Durbin on a 50-yard touchdown throw to give Vandalia a 49-42 lead with 7:33 to play.
Greenville failed to answer, as Bradley wrapped up Hutchinson on a fourth-down attempt from the Vandals 37.
Vandalia marched down to the Greenville 6-yard line before being stopped just short on a third-down rush.
The rest was history, as the missed field goal allowed the Comets to score the game-tying and game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion to spoil the Vandals playoff chances.
“I thought the kids played hard. They (Greenville) just made the plays there in the fourth quarter when they had to,” Stout said. “A couple of times on fourth down they, converted and we couldn’t get them stopped there in the last drive.”
Game Stats- Vandalia compiled 509 yards of offense against the Comets, 396 rushing and 113 passing.
Leading the ground attack was Bradley, who finished with 227 yards on 31 carries for 3 touchdowns.
“It was just a great effort by him; I don’t know what his stats were, but just a phenomenal effort on his part,” Stout said. “He just kept running after contact. It was a great effort by Bobby and he didn’t want his career to end this way, but unfortunately it did.”
Jones finished with 118 yards on 12 carries and McNary rounded out the rushing attack with 45 yards on 8 carries for 2 touchdowns.
Well completed two of six passes for 54 yards with a touchdown and interception. Jones completed one of two passes for 59 yards.
Durbin finished with two catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
The Vandals gave up 498 yards on defense (377 passing and 121 rushing).
Greenville 50, Vandalia 49
VA 8 13 14 14 49
GR 8 12 8 22 50
GR- 7-yard pass by Ryan Hutchinson to Christian Moss (pass good), 10:15
VA- 2-yard run by Bradley (PAT good), 3:14
VA- 11-yard run by Bradley (PAT good), 11:53
VA- 20-yard run by Bradley (PAT no good), 9:57
GR- 31-yard reception by Brady Simpson from Hutchinson (pass no good), 8:37
GR- 21-yard reception by Dawson Chesnut from Hutchinson (run no good), 7:15
VA- 1-yard run by Well (PAT good), 7:27
VA- 1-yard run by McNary (PAT good), 4:18
GR- 28-yard reception by Simpson from Hutchinson (run good), 1:12
VA- 1-yard run by McNary (PAT good), 11:37
GR- 2-yard run by Ty Sexton (run good), 9:51
GR- 1-yard run by Seth Moore (run no good), 8:29
VA- 50-yard reception by Durbin from Well (PAT good), 7:33
GR- 12-yard touchdown pass by Hutchinson (pass good), :08