Just 2:51 into their Class 2, District 5 first round matchup with rival Bowling Green, the Van-Far/Community R-VI cooperative football team seemed poised to win a playoff game in the first year of the partnership.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Bowling Green rallied from two scores down for a second straight game between the schools and cruised to a 42-18 victory.
Van-Far jumped up by two touchdowns two weeks ago before Bowling Green came-from-behind for the win.
The Bobcats advanced to the district semifinals to take on No. 1 seed Clark County on Wednesday, October 31.
Van-Far head coach Blake Logan was hoping his team would advance further but is still proud of how his team played this year.
“We had three wins, more than the senior class had in their first three seasons combined,” Logan said.
“We also had some very close games that could have gone either way. It all started with dedication in the offseason. I’m hoping the younger guys can see the seniors dedication and take their lead. If you want to have success in ball games, you need to have success in the weight room and its apparent which schools do hit the weight room hard and it translates to wins and losses in the season.”
Logan added that he’ll miss the senior class.
“This is the first Senior class I’ve had here for a whole year,” he said.
“There’s two or three who stick out that went from good players to great players from off season weight training…It was a sad post game with a lot of the guys from both R-VI and from Van-Far.”
Logan said the first year of the cooperative program was a success.
“A lot of people thought there was going to be animosity and they would not get along but there was not one instance of that,” he said.
“It was just like any other year of football as the guys came together and they were one group. A lot of guys over (at R-VI) were learning and improved week in and week out. It definitely helped with our depth and allowed me to practice 11-on-11. So from every aspect it was a good thing.”
Van-Far/Community R-VI wasted no time in their district game getting after Bowling Green.
On the Bobcats’ third play of the game, Brandon Billings knocked a ball loose and Dylan Stubblefield recovered the ball at midfield.
On the very first offensive play, Van-Far quarterback Ethan Gooch scored on a 60-yard touchdown run. A failed two-point conversion kept the score at 6-0.
Van-Far’s following kickoff was then dropped by a front line Bowling Green player and recovered by Brian Kurz at midfield.
After a 33-yard run from Gooch on the third play, Logan Boyd scored on a two yard touchdown run. A failed two-point conversion pushed the lead to 12-0 with 9:09 still remaining in the first quarter.
With defensive end Ryan Nelson out of the game due to an injury, Bowling Green’s offense didn’t take long to exploit what was his side of the defensive line. Bowling Green had two long runs assisted with a Van-Far personal foul before a 52 yard drive was completed with a three yard touchdown run by Malik McPike.
Bowling Green maintained the momentum three plays after their kickoff as they intercepted Gooch’s pass inside Indians’ territory.
The Bobcats marched 24 yards on two plays for their second touchdown in 1:58 for a 14-12 lead.
“We knew without having two starters on defense, it was going to be tough,” Logan said of his team missing players like Devontay Wilkerson and Nelson. “They noticed early that we were missing Nelson over there so they got a score pretty easily and we helped them out with a penalty. It was a huge momentum shift after the turnover…”
With 1:23 left in the first quarter, Van-Far fumbled a handoff on their own 39-yard line and the Bobcats took advantage. They scored five plays later on McPike’s second touchdown, this one from 13 yards out for a 21-12 lead.
Another Van-Far punt was followed on a four-and-out when the Bobcats scored on a two play, 45 yard drive behind McPike’s third touchdown run to go up 28-12.
On Bowling Green’s next possession, they scored on just two plays after getting great field position after a Van-Far punt from their own endzone.
The Bobcats went up 35-12 with 6:57 left in the first half.
Van-Far’s defense regained some momentum late in the half when they tackled Bowling Green for a seven yard loss on a fake 38-yard field goal attempt.
After shooting themselves in the foot with a penalty on what could have been a 65-yard touchdown pass, Gooch connected again with Boyd on a 60 yard passing play after a second flag was waived off during a timeout.
Van-Far pushed the ball to the nine yard line before failing to plug the ball in the endzone with just 9.9 seconds left.
The Indians had 125 yards rushing and 199 total yards of offense in the first half while the Bobcats tallied 173 yards rushing and 204 total yards.
Though Van-Far had a successful converted fake punt at midfield near the beginning of the second half on fourth down, neither team scored in the third quarter.
With Gooch out of the game after suffering an apparent head injury, Bowling Green took advantage.
They marched 37 yards on five plays to score on a six yard touchdown run for a 42-12 lead.
Boyd saw some time towards the end of the game at quarterback and made the most of his experience.
He first connected with Trey Hull on an eight yard pass.
Four plays later, he connected with Dylan Stubblefield on a 25-yard touchdown pass with under a minute left in the game. The failed two-point conversion kept the score at 42-18.
“We slipped Dylan deep, he got behind his defender, and made the catch,” Logan said. “It was good to see.”
Van-Far finished with 209 yards rushing for 326 total yards while the Bobcats had 235 yards rushing and 266 total yards.
Gooch finished with 15 carries for 144 yards and one touchdown. He also completed 3-of-13 passes for 74 yards with one interception.
Boyd completed 2-of-3 passes for 33 yards and one touchdown. He also had 19 carries for 60 yards and one touchdown along with two catches for 68 yards.
McPike finished with 17 carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns for the Bobcats.