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With a record of 1-4, the Staunton Bulldogs were not going to be a pushover, and the Vandals saw that in the first half of the game Friday night, played on the road. The Vandals ended up scoring thrice in the second half, taking the contest 34-20.
The Bulldogs got on the board late in the first quarter, as after trading possessions with neither team really gaining the momentum, Noah Partridge scored from one yard out with just over 2 minutes to play. The Extra Point Attempt failed, and Staunton held a 6-0, first score lead before the hometown crowd.
However the Vandals, if nothing else, have proved themselves to be resilient, and bounced back on the ensuing possession, as Hagy kept the ball and ran it in from eight yards out for the scored. The extra point was no good, and the score stood tied, at 6 each.
The game would again become stalemated, as neither team could not quite reach pay dirt, until just under 12 seconds left in the half. Hagy again scored with the quarterback keeper from a yard out, and this time the Kanon Wollerman kick was good, as the Vandals took the lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the locker room, the Vandals scored in just more than a minute and a half, as Hagy connected with Ruot on a 34-yard pass, with the ensuing extra point good by Wollerman, and the lead grew to 20-6.
Staunton would reply with a score of their own, after working down to the Vandal 34-yard line, Dillon ran the ball in, for a 20-6 score, wanting to close the gap even more, the Bulldogs tried for the conversion, but were unsuccessful. That was the closest they would get to the Vandals, as the teams moved into the final 12 minutes.
Both teams were pretty much quiet in the scoring column, until the Vandals put together a string of plays, marching down to the 1-yard-line. Eric McKinney took the ball across the stripe for the score, and the Wollerman kick was good, as the lead stretched to 27-12.
After a brief Bulldog possession, the Vandals were again at the one-yard-line, but this time Ryan Kaiser answered the call, and the Wollerman kick was good, as with just under a minute and a half, the Vandals sat on a three-score lead, 34-12, giving their opponents slim hopes for a victory.
They did save a bit of pride, as the Bulldogs got the final score of the game with less than 45 ticks on the clock, on a 37-yard pass from Best to Dillon, with a successful conversion, for the 34-20 final.
The Vandals have defeated the Bulldogs every game since 2014, and have outscored Staunton 330-82 during that stretch.
Hagy edged out McKinney in rushing, with both carrying the ball 20 times, and Hagy had 88 yards and two touchdowns. McKinney had 87 yards and a touchdown in the game. Preston Nestrick had 2 carries for 25 yards and Kaiser had 3 for 13 yards. Conor Ray had one for 4 yards on the night.
Hagy completed 14 of 22 passing attempts, for a total of 162 yards, including a touchdown and one interception.
Ruot led in receiving, pulling down 6 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown. Connor Ray followed with 4 for 57 yards; Nestrick had 3 for 6 yards and Kaiser had 1 for 3 yards.
On the defensive side of the ledger, Ruot had 1 solo tackle and 3 assists; McKinney had 3 solos and 6 assists, 1.5 for a total of 9 yards in loss of yardage by Staunton, and one sack, setting back the Bulldogs for 11 yards. Reid Well had a solo tackle; Ray had 4 solo; Andrew Kelly had 3 solo and 4 assists; Kaiser had 4 solo and 6 assists, with one assist for a -4 yards; Nestrick had 1 solo; Christian DuPlayee had 5 solo and 4 assists, 1.5 for a losses totaling 11 yards, and one sack for a loss of 6 yards; Logan Nance had 3 solos and 3 assists, with an assist for a four-yard loss; Justin Proctor had 2 assists; Lane McCormick had 3 assists; Jaydon Lotz had 2 solos and 7 assists; Dalton White had 2 solos and 7 assists, one for an 8-yard loss and a sack for a five yard loss, and Kannon Wollerman had 1 solo takedown.
Preston Wilkerson had one fumble return.
“I thought we were able to clean some things up defensively last week versus Staunton,” Head Coach Jason Clay said. “We played the wing counter better and essentially held them to no passing yards. We need to play better on special teams. Their first touchdown was set up by a long punt return so special teams will be a point of emphasis this week in practice.”
The Vandal record moves to 5-1, just one away from that magic sixth win, which would insure a post season berth. The Vandals play Southwestern this Friday night in the school’s homecoming, and go on to play Litchfield on the road next week, before returning home for the season final against Greenville, and senior night.
The Birds come into the game with an overall 4-2 record, suffering losses to Pana and Carlinville.
“We are excited to play Southwestern this week for our homecoming game. We feel like we owe them after a bad loss at their place last spring,” Clay said. “They have two really good backs that will be a major challenge to stop. We need to stop the run and try to make them beat us by passing the ball especially to the receivers.“
“Offensively we need to clean up some of the turnovers and take what they give us. We need to keep improving our running game this week and will work hard on that with the backs and linemen,” he continued. “This is a huge game for us as it is a chance to clinch the playoffs and start talking about the post season.”