It didn’t take long for the Vandalia Vandals to prove that preseason football rankings are pretty much meaningless.
After stopping Pana’s long opening drive inside the Vandalia 10-yard line, the Vandals controlled the Panthers the rest of the game in recording a 34-10 win.
Pana was ranked fourth in the Associated Press in the AP preseason poll. The other South Central Conference teams to even receive votes in the poll were Hillsboro and new SCC member, North Mac, one each.
The Vandals did not receive any votes, but quickly showed on Friday that they are an SCC team to be reckoned with.
After stopping that initial drive, the Vandals opened the scoring on a 24-yard run by Eric McKinney. They then showed off their pass game with a 30-yard TD pass from Matthew Kelly to Andrew Kelly, with Kanon Wollerman adding an extra-point kick to give the Vandals a 13-0 lead after one quarter.
A Hagy keeper and Wollerman kick made it 20-0 before Pana got on the scoreboard with a 2-yard run and two-point conversion.
Hagy connected with Preston Nestrick shortly before halftime to put the lead at 19, 27-8.
Pana recorded a safety in the third quarter, and Hagy and Pierson Wilkerson closed out the scoring with an 11-yard pass.
After the win, Vandals coach Jason Clay talked about good performances by individuals and the team as a whole.
“Pierson (Wilkerson) had some big catches, Preston (Nestrick) had some big catches, Andrew (Kelly) had some big catches, Reid (Well) had some big catches, and Chase McNary got in there and had a catch,” Clay said.
“Eric (McKinney) ran the ball well, Matthew (Hagy) ran the ball well,” he said. “To me, when you watch it on film, it’s hard (to defend) because we’ve got a lot of weapons.
“We knew going in that we trusted a lot of guys, and you know, you’ve got to pick your poison (to defend us) if we can block the box on the run.
“They’ve got to bring people in and play man (defense), so that opens up our passing game,” Clay said.
And having a big role in that success was the play of the Vandals’ linemen.
“It’s coming together,” he said about the line play. “We’ve got three seniors back and then two other guys who are seniors. I think that’s big because they’re big, strong kids.
“They’ve lifted their butts off in the offseason and I think we’ve had one of the best springs we’ve ever had. We’ve made monster gains in the weight room.
“I think our kids are physical and had a physical game tonight,” he said. “That’s something that we were missing last year, were not as physical, so we’re going to keep working on that.
“We know that we’re going to have to be physical to win football games,” Clay said.
“Our kids believe in us, and we had a monster game tonight,” he said.
And it came against a team that was getting high praise in the preseason.
“They’re a really good football team; they’re going to win a lot of games, obviously,” Clay said. “They are well coached and well prepared, and you know they’re going to be good.”
“We gave up big plays last year (against Pana), and our defense did a great job of not giving up the big play and making them drive the ball, and make them make mistakes. They made enough mistakes and not making completions,” Clay said.
“Obviously, after the first game, there are going to be a lot of things to work on.
“I think you grow the most from the first game to the second, so I’m excited to get on the film and learn, see what we can do to grow.
“We played a good team, and I know we’ll be able to see some things that we need to work on to get better,” Clay said.
Vandalia 34, Pana 10
V – 1st quarter, 5:54, Vandalia – 24-yd run, Eric McKinney, kick failed. V 6, P 0
V – 1st quarter, 0:35.5, Vandalia – 30-yd pass, Matthew Hagy to Andrew Kelly, Kanon Wollerman kick V 13, Pana 0
V– 2nd quarter, 7:31, Vandalia – 10-yd run, Matthew Hagy, Kanon Wollerman kick. V 20, P 0
P – 2nd quarter, 3:08, Pana – 2-yd run, Evan Swisher, 2-pt conversion pass Ace Armstrong to Haden Stark. V 20, P 8
V– 2nd quarter, 0:51.0, Vandalia – 24-yd pass, Matthew Hagy to Preston Nestrick, Kanon Wollerman kick. V 27, P 8
P– 3rd quarter, 5:43, Pana – safety, V 27 P 10.
V – 4th quarter, 11:05, Vandalia – 11-yd pass, Matthew Hagy to Pierson Wilkerson, Kanon Wollerman kick. V 34, Pana 10
Rushing: 37 for 185 yds, 2 TD’s
• Eric McKinney-19 carries for 96 yds, TD
• Matthew Hagy-11 carries for 75 yds, TD
• Landon Christian-5 carries for 8 yds
• Andrew Kelly-2 carries for 6 yds
Passing: 18 for 24, 203 yards, 3 TD’s
• Matthew Hagy-18 for 24, 203 yards, 3 TD’s
Receiving: 18 for 203 yards, 3 TD’s
• Reid Well-7 for 69 yds
• Preston Nestrick-3 for 45 yds, TD
• Pierson Wilkerson-4 for 44 yds, TD
• Andrew Kelly-1 for 30 yds, TD
• Eric McKinney-2 for 7 yds
• Chase McNary-1 for 8 yds
Total Offense = 388 yds
• Landon Christian-1 assist
• Tristan Eller-1 assist
• Andrew Kelly-4 solo, 2 assists
• Eric McKinney-4 solo, 4 assists, 1/2 sack for -3 yds
• Reid Well-2 solo, 3 assists
• Matthew Hagy-3 solo, 1 assist
• Preston Nestrick-2 solo, 2 assists
• Conner Thierry-5 solo, 6 assists (caused Pana fumble)
• Jay Keck-2 solo, 1 assist
• Chase McNary-2 solo, 3 assists
• Brody Roberts-1 solo
• Christian DuPlayee-2 solo, 4 assists, 2½ sacks for -11 yds
• Logan Nance-2 solo, 5 assists, 1 sack for -1 yd
• Justus Larimer-2 assists
• Lane McCormick-1 solo, 2 assists
• Carson Lotz-1 solo
• Gage Chapman-1 assist
• Dalton White-3 assists
Fumble Recoveries – Eric McKinney, Logan Nance
Statistics provided by Hanna Edgar
JV – Pana 20, Vandalia 18