There was a sense of optimism in the Van-Far football program after week two of the 2009 season when the Indians started with a 2-0 record. Their second victory was a 44-15 defeat of MMA.
The Indians unfortunately finished that season by being outscored 221-43.
Since then Van-Far put together a 27-game losing streak, struggled with small player numbers, changed coaches before the 2011 campaign, and entered a cooperative football agreement with Community R-VI.
The heartache ended in spite Hurricane Isaac visiting Vandalia in the Indians’ home opener last Friday night as Van-Far crushed MMA 46-6 in front of a faithful crowd willing to watch the game in the rain.
Van-Far’s players enjoyed being on the other side of the mercy clock with 2:52 left in the game after scoring their final touchdown.
“It was good to get the monkey off the back for me and the guys and I think the guys are excited to see what we can do the rest of the season,” said Van-Far head coach Blake Logan.
For the second week in a row, senior Ethan Gooch led the Indians with his toughness. Gooch had 21 carries for 159 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed all three of his passes for 17 yards.
“The combination of his work ethic, smarts, and his low center of gravity; he’s very allusive, it’s a good combination and you want the ball in his hands as much as possible,” Logan said.
The rainy conditions hampered both teams in the first half as they combined for just 144 yards of total offense.
Van-Far struck early when Gooch recovered his own on-side kick as no MMA player made an attempt to get the ball after 10 yards.
Logan Boyd’s nine yard run was followed by three straight Gooch carries, the final for a 17-yard touchdown. Devontay Wilkerson ran the ball in the endzone for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Lucas Robinson’s pass was intercepted deep in MMA territory.
Though the Indians failed to take advantage of a bad MMA punt just minutes later that went out of bounds on the Colonels’ 22-yard line going four-and-out, defensive end Brian Kurz recorded a safety for a 10-0 lead on a six yard tackle for a loss in the endzone.
Gooch’s solid return on the following kickoff into MMA territory set up a seven play, 36-yard drive. Wilkerson scored on a one yard plunge for a 16-0 lead. The lead was pushed to 18-0 on Robinson’s keeper for two points.
After costly penalties stalled drives in the second quarter, MMA kept themselves in the game with a nine play, 40-yard drive. The Colonels converted a fourth and short behind a 17-yard passing play then scored three plays later on a six yard run. MMA fumbled on their two-point try.
Logan reminded his team at halftime to not get distracted by the scoreboard and they responded by putting together a statement drive to begin the second half.
Gooch, Boyd and Trey Hull each started with hard-nosed carries on three straight plays. The Indians scored seven plays later on Gooch’s 30-yard touchdown run for a 24-6 edge.
“I said we had to come out in the third quarter and make a statement,” Logan said.
“We got the ball first and (the offense and defense) were willing to make contact.”
Brandon Billings recovered a fumble two plays later to set up another score.
Hull picked up 33 yards rushing on the drive as Van-Far was helped by 30 yards in personal foul penalties. Gooch later scored on a three yard touchdown run and converted a two-point try for a 32-6 lead.
In the fourth quarter, MMA appeared ready to take advantage of great field position on the Indians’ 39-yard line after a three yard punt.
Van-Far’s defense responded with a four-and-out.
Starting at their own 40-yard line, Van-Far marched down to the 30 before the play of the year took place on Gooch’s five yard cutback run as Boyd laid a crushing block on an MMA defender that put the sideline and crowd into a frenzy.
“That was a ridiculous block,” Logan said of a block that can be viewed on The Vandalia Leader’s Facebook page. “That’s just one thing that not only electrifies the crowed but it does the sidelines and the rest of the team, and they want to get in on that action too.”
Three plays later, Van-Far went up 40-6 on Hull’s seven yard touchdown run and Robinson’s two-point conversion.
MMA’s four-and-out inside their own red zone was followed by the Indians’ final score on Gooch’s 24-touchdown run in a 40-point win.
Van-Far finished with 240 rushing yards and 22 passing for 262 total yards of offense. MMA’s offense was held to just 56 yards passing and 47 yards rushing for 103 total yards.
“I like the way we were stopping the run,” Logan added.
Other notable statistics included Hull’s seven carries for 47 yards and one touchdown. Boyd had four catches for 32 yards and eight carries for 39 yards. Wilkerson had four carries for 20 yards and one touchdown.
Logan said he was proud of how well his ball carriers protected the ball and pointed to camp drills and practice before the game as major reasons for the success.
“I preached to the guys all week that weather conditions are nothing you can control; the only thing you can control is yourself,” Logan said. “Obviously they responded really well and hopefully we can keep that trend going…If less than 12-percent of your plays is sacks, turnovers, dropped balls, or foolish penalties, then you have a good chance at winning the game.”
Up next is an 0-2 Principia squad coming off of tough losses to JFK (50-28) and Lutheran-St. Charles (27-21).
With the game moving from Principia to Van-Far this Friday night, it will be the third straight road game for Principia.
Logan said Principia is “well coached” and they have speed. He said they run a spread offense with similar formations to his squad with a speedy guy on the outside and a solid running back who “runs behinds his pads very well.”
“Their going to give us a challenge and I look forward to it,” he added.