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It has been nearly a year and a half since the Friday night lights were shut off, but on Friday night, March 19, high school teams around the state got back on the field to play. The Vandalia Vandals, despite being down by 9 points headed to the final quarter, the team pulled together and spoiled the Bulldogs home opener.
“I was proud of our kids for finding a way to win last week at Staunton. We had a lot of people making their first varsity starts so hopefully we got that under our belt and can focus on cleaning up mistakes. The biggest opportunity for improvement in football comes from week 1 to week 2. We feel like we can improve on offense, defense and special teams over last week,” said Head Coach Jason Clay.
The Bulldogs drew first blood in the contest, as at 7:43 in the first quarter, Zach Ury hit Kyle Favre from 12-yards out. Noufel Ramadan’s extra point attempt split the uprights as Staunton jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
The Vandals however did not want to enter the locker room down. Matthew Hagy, after taking his team downfield to the 5-yard line with :12.7 to go in the first half, did not want to waste the momentum and tagged Gaige Beall in the end zone to close to one point. Looking to tie the game midway, the extra point attempt was no good for the Vandals, as Staunton maintained the lead, 7-6.
Both teams traded possessions after half time, but at 3:35 in the third, Staunton fell on a blocked punt which found its way to the end zone, and Favre ran the ball across the line for the two-point conversion, as Staunton took a 15-6 lead into the final 12 minutes.
The Vandals did not wait 16 months to suffer a defeat in their first game. After again trading possessions in the fourth, Hagy connected with Nolan White to hit pay dirt from 5 yards out, and Dawson McKinney pushed the ball in for two, as Vandalia turned the game into a nail biter, 15-14.
The Vandals took the ball down the field after a quick change of ball control, and with 1:20 left to play in the game, McKinney again took the ball across the line, with Vandalia taking the lead for the first time, 20-15. The conversion failed and the Vandals defense took over. Sensing the win, the Vandalia defense held, and took away the win, going 1-0 on the season.
Hagy was 11 for 24 on the night, passing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 19 times for 68 yards. McKinney had 15 carries for 54 yards. Jaydon Lotz had four carries for 8 yards, and Ruot handled the ball once, for two yards.
Vandalia aired the ball out nicely for their first game, as Connor Ray had two receptions for 39 yards. Ruot also had two for 28 yards and Nolan White hauled in three for 23 yards, with one TD reception. Beall was two for 11 yards, also with one TD. Lotz hauled in 1 for 9 yards, and McKinney had one for no gain.
Michael Bowles led the team on defense with 5 tackles and 5 assists, including one sack with Beall, for a two-yard Staunton loss. Tiler Worker had 3 solo tackles and 7 assists; White, 4 solo, 3 assists; Beall, 3 solo and 3 assists; Gavin Mouser, two solo and five assists.
“As far as this weeks game against Roxana defensively we will have to first stop the run. Traditionally Roxana has a physical run oriented offense that is capable of making big plays in the passing game. We will have to play assignment football and get great pursuit. Offensively we will have to be balanced with the run and the pass. They will try to avoid giving up big plays and force us to drive it. We need to take care of the ball and clean up some of the penalties to be successful,” Clay said.