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Van-Far head football coach Blake Logan knew his Indians were playing perhaps their toughest opponent during the 2012 season in their opener last Friday night against Living Word Christian High School in O’Fallon, Mo.
Last season, the young program outscored their opponents 314-168 losing just two games before falling in the playoffs to South Callaway.
With just 18 of a possible 30 or so players suited up for the game due to either a need for more practice time or injuries, the beginning of the co-op program between Van-Far and Community R-VI started with a tough 43-14 loss. Living Word’s coach Andy Hare played for legendary football coach Lou Holtz at the University of Minnesota before joining Holtz’s staff at Notre Dame as a grad assistant in the 1980’s.
“Our guys fought hard,” Logan said. “They had 50-60 kids running on and off the field full of energy. Our kids were running and on and off, dying of being tired.”
Injuries plagued the Indians in the loss. Running back and defensive back Woodrow Jackson was scratched after an injury in practice the day before. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Lucas Robinson suffered a foot injury early in the second quarter and didn’t play the remainder of the game.
Senior Ethan Gooch faced both challenges head on. After being thrusted into running back the night before, Robinson’s injury forced Gooch to then move over to quarterback and he didn’t disappoint. Gooch gave the co-op program its first touchdown with 6:33 left in the game when he picked up a dropped snap, made a cut back, and scampered 60 yards for a touchdown. He then completed a two-point conversion pass to Logan Boyd to make the score 43-8.
The Eagles later turned the ball over on downs in their own territory and Gooch took advantage. He first connected with Boyd on a 22-yard passing play. One play later, Gooch scored on a nine yard touchdown run. His two-point conversion pass went incomplete to make the final score 43-14. Gooch finished with 14 rushes for 81 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for eight yards and made eight completions for 23 yards.
“Ethan played his heart out,” Logan said. “He created a lot of stuff on his own. He had a gutsy performance.”
Logan credited Gooch for the energy he brought to Van-Far in the second half where the Indians won the final two quarters 14-0 with a mercy clock running.
“I think that Ethan Gooch came in and took control and everyone followed suit,” Logan said. “I preached at halftime that you have to dig deep. You have to fight through the mentality that the game’s over; you have to fight during every play….(Ethan) kept their heads up and they kept wanting to fight and compete.”
Living Word scored their first touchdown of the game on their very first play when their quarterback scrambled for 10 yards before pitching it to a player who finished off a 60-yard touchdown.
Their second drive stopped on the eight yard line when Keith Caldwell recovered a fumble. After a turnover on downs, Living Word scored on a 34-yard touchdown run with a two-point conversion for a 16-0 edge. The Eagles opened up their aerial attack in the second quarter, scoring another 27 points to enter halftime up 43-0. Their last touchdown came as time expired on a 61-yard touchdown passing play.
Living Word finished the game with 282 yards passing and 164 yards rushing for 446 total yards of offense.
Van-Far had just 130 total yards of offense with 39 in the air and 91 on the ground. Boyd had 10 carries for 17 yards and seven receptions for 31 yards. Logan also noted standout play from Brian Kurz, Tyler Mays, and Anthony Fairchild.
The Indians will play MMA in their home opener on Friday, August 31 in hopes of ending a 27 game losing streak. MMA uses a two quarterback system and they like to throw the ball. They lost their opener to a West Hancock team from Illinois 53-8. West Hancock entered that game after not having a win since the beginning of the 2010 season.