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The Vandalia Vandals pulled off one thing that only nine other football teams had done – defeat the Pana Panthers on the road. The Vandals won the contest, 24-13, and came back with a vengeance after trailing by a touchdown after the first quarter.
Pana drew first blood, when at 4:05, when Brenden Schoonover took a 65-yard interception return into the endzone, with the point after good for an early 7-0, Panther lead.
It took the Vandals just over 12 minutes to respond, and what a response it was.
With 4:01 on the clock in the second quarter, The Vandals put the ball across the line from 9 yards out, on a Matthew Hagy keeper. The point after was no good in a one-point ball game, 7-6.
However Vandalia soon hit paydirt again, as with 18 ticks left on the clock in the half, Hagy connected with Carson Ruot on a 27-yard pass, with the Vandals taking the lead, 12-7. The point after attempt failed, with the score holding into the intermission.
Pana wasted no time taking back the lead, but it was short-lived. Austin Henschen had an 85-yard kickoff return, with the extra point attempt again missing, as Pana led 13-12.
With the return possession, the duo of Hagy-Ruot again connected, this time for a 61-yard touchdown pass, as the Vandals took the lead, and did not look back. The two-point conversion was no good, with the score at the 10:47 mark, 18-13.
The Vandals had the final score of the game, as Ruot yet again took the ball into the endzone from 21 yards out, for a 24-13 lead. The kick was blocked.
Ruot had a huge night for the Vandals, having 162 yards on 8 receptions, good enough for the number 11 all-time list of most reception yardage in a single game. He also had 67 yards on the ground on 7 carries.
Hagy had 20 carries for 44 yards and on touchdown, Dawson McKinney had 41 yards on 11 carries, and Jaydon Lotz had one carry for 6 yards.
Hagy went 12 for 23 in passing on the night, connecting for a total of 177 yards, including two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Also on receiving, Gaige Beall had one reception for 11 yards; Connor Ray had two for 9 yards, Rayn Kaiser had 1 for 4 yards, and Lotz had one for a nine-yard loss.
On defense, Beall led the way with 4 solo tackles and 5 assists. He was followed by Ray with 3 solo tackles, one for a one-yard loss for Pana; Nolan White with two solos and two assists, one for a one-yard loss; Eric McKinney and Ruot each had two solos and two assists; Reid Well, two solos; Michael Bowles, 4 assists; Lane McCormick, one solo and three assists, one for a two-yard loss; Tiler Worker, one solo and three assists, and Gavin Mouser, with 5 assists.
Gavin Mouser had one fumble return and Ruot had two interceptions, and Ray and White each had one.
The Vandals are now 3-1 on the season, with the final two games at home.
“I am very proud of how our kids rebounded from the previous week. I thought they worked very hard in practice all week leading up to the Pana game,” said Head Coach Jason Clay. “We didn’t play a perfect game, but did much better about not letting our mistakes negatively impact how we played. Our defense was outstanding the whole game creating 4 turnovers on interceptions and allowing no touchdowns. Based on the video we only gave up 164 total yards. They had 18 rushes for 46 yards and were 13-29 passing 118 yards 4 INT. Those numbers give us a great chance to win every game.
“Offensively we were able to stay pretty balanced running and passing with Carson (Ruot) having a huge night,” Clay added.
In looking forward to the Greenville game on Friday night, the coach says, “This week we will keep focusing on the same things. We will work to clean up some things especially on special teams. We look forward to finally playing at home. We will have to stay focused and play smart against another good opponent.
“Greenville does a good job running the ball and their passing game has made some big plays. Our defense will have to play well again to stop them. Offensively we need to keep striving for balance and spreading the ball around to the best matchups for us.”