In spite of battling a Clopton/Elsberry team that beat them a few weeks earlier, battling several bad calls by the officiating crew, playing late in the game without their injured quarterback, and battling a timekeeper who seemed to be helping out the home team with when they chose to start the clock, it all didn’t matter last Friday night.
The Van-Far/Community R-VI football team forced four turnovers and gained momentum on a late 64 yard passing play from backup quarterback Parker Wallace to Sharrod Connor.
Connor scored the game-winning touchdown with 9:53 on the clock and the Indians held on for a 26-24 victory.
It was the first district win for the Indians in the new district format.
“It was definitely the most gratifying win that I’ve had,” said head coach Blake Logan.
“It wasn’t just one or two people, it was a collective team effort.”
As issues seemed to get worse with the timekeeper not starting the clock as the game went on, Coach Logan had Nick Barnes take a 4th down snap on the Indianhawks’ 13-yard line and run backwards to end the game.
After officials for no apparent reason pushed the clock from 3.1 seconds to 8.0 seconds, the timekeeper even waited two full seconds to start the clock on Barnes’ 42-yard loss.
Coach Logan said one key to his team’s victory was the support it received from its crowd, cheerleaders, and band that traveled to the away game. The team also had a police escort heading out of Vandalia before the game.
“I want to thank everybody from the community who came out to show their support,” he added.
“It was pretty special to see as many or more people in the visiting crowd then there was in the home crowd. The band, cheerleaders, and crowd made it that more special.”
In the first quarter, the Indians were the first team to strike as the defense forced the Indianhawks to turn the ball over on downs at midfield.
Van-Far/Community R-VI converted a 4th down on quarterback Lucas Robinson’s 10 yard run. On the next play he connected with Barnes on a 28 yard catch as Barnes went up and over a defender to make a nice grab.
Robinson then scored on a one yard touchdown run. He connected with Barnes for a two-point play and an 8-0 lead.
The Indians defense was relentless as Anthony Fairchild’s hit three plays later jarred the ball loose that was recovered by Jamie Householder at midfield.
Unfortunately, Clopton/Elsberry stripped Robinson of the ball on one play for a 13 yard loss, which set up a Barnes 52-yard punt.
With Clopton/Elsberry pinned deep in their own end of the field, Van-Far/Community R-VI took over their next possession at the 39 yard line after a short punt.
The Indians ran on three straight plays before Robinson connected with Wyatt McDowell, who made a nice catch with his hands in the endzone. A failed two-point play kept the score at 14-0.
Van-Far/Community R-VI appeared ready to run away with the game a few minutes later as the defense continued to put the pressure on the Indianhawks.
This time, Robinson intercepted a pass near midfield.
He rushed for 12 yards then 18 yards before Conner Albrecht had two straight carries for 10 yards. He scored with 8:51 left in the half. A failed trickery two-point play kept the score at 20-0.
Just before halftime, the injury bug caught up with the Indians.
Connor left the game with an apparent knee injury followed one play later with Robinson leaving the game with his injury.
The officiating crew turned the momentum for good a few plays later when a passing play for 15 yards ended with an Indianhawks receiver clearly fumbling a ball recovered by the Indians.
The main officials didn’t make the call and Clopton/Elsberry maintained possession.
Three plays later, Clopton/Elsberry scored on an eight yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion pushed the score to 20-8.
The Indianhawks were set to receive the ball coming out of halftime and they took advantage.
They marched 58 yards on 13 plays and scored on a 4th and 3. A two-point run trimmed the lead to 20-16.
Robinson was hit hard while throwing the ball three plays later and never did return.
Fortunately, the Indians’ defense did bend but didn’t break. The Indianhawks took the ball to the nine yard line when Connor knocked down a 4th down pass in the endzone.
“That might have been the unsung play of the game,” Logan said. “It was huge to keep them out of the endzone…One thing I can say about this team is when they get their backs against the wall, they don’t give up.”
With Wallace in at quarterback, the Indians were struggling to get a rhythm at first.
Two botched handoffs led to minus 27 yards rushing.
A Barnes 54-yard punt put the Indianhawks at midfield and that was too close.
Clopton/Elsberry scored on a five yard run. A two-point conversion with 15.2 seconds left in the third quarter gave them a 24-20 edge for their first lead of the game.
Just when it appeared the Indians might be running the ball only with a backup quarterback in the game, Logan dialed up the play of the game.
He gave Wallace a chance to take a shot downfield and it worked. He connected with Connor on a 64 yard pass to get the ball to the three yard line.
Logan said he was proud of Wallace executing the play on this formation that he just installed the week of the game while Wallace had no reps during the week.
“He made me and his teammates look good,” Logan said. “He’s a competitor.”
After a horse collar tackle, Connor scored on a one yard touchdown run with 9:53 left in the game for the winning score.
Clopton/Elsberry did respond early in the fourth quarter as they took advantage of a bad passing interference call by officials that pushed the ball to the Indians’ 38.
Clopton/Elsberry’s receivers had two crucial drops before Householder picked up a big interception with 5:06 left.
With the ball on their own 14, Logan dialed up another surprise with a fake punt on a 4th and 1 and it worked as Albrecht picked up a first down.
“We’ve been punting well all night so they didn’t think we would fake,” Logan said. “With us only needing to get a yard, I trusted Conner (Albrecht) to get it.”
Householder added another defensive hit and a fumble recovery with 3:27 left to truly seal the win.
Robinson completed 8/13 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 67 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown. On defense, he had one interception.
Albrecht had 12 carries for 33 yards and one touchdown. He had one catch for 10 yards.
Connor had three catches for 65 yards. He also had 14 carries for 68 yards and one touchdown.
Barnes had three catches for 44 yards. He also had two carries for minus 62 yards, both losses were not a fault of his. He added six punts totaling 275 yards or a 46 yard per punt average.
Defensively, Albrecht made 20 tackles, Jacob Gardner added 17, Fairchild tallied 11 with three tackles for a loss, while Householder had seven tackles, two fumble recoveries, one interception, and one sack.
Logan said Andrew Snodgrass was a work horse for his team on both lines in the win.
This Friday night, the Indians will take on Bowling Green, who beat Van-Far earlier this season.
The game is on the road at 7 p.m.
“They’re obviously a very good team,” Logan said. “They are well coached with good athletes.”