A persistent rushing attack along with a defense that responded in the second half led to a big 75-37 victory last Friday night in Mexico against MMA to give new Van-Far/Community R-VI head coach Kevin Baldwin a victory in his debut with the program.
“The thing I appreciate about our kids is they didn’t let (the game) rattle them,” Baldwin said. “It looked like a track meet early in the game but they just kept doing what they needed to do until we finally got a few breaks…Our effort was great from the start until the end of the game.”
After the win, Baldwin was quick to point to his team’s ability to play as a team is what helped them be successful in the opener.
“This is one of the most unselfish groups I’ve ever coached, and I’ve coached a bunch,” Baldwin added.
An example of this is the ability of five players to play multiple positions and communicate amongst themselves as to what position they are going to play at when coming out of the huddle.
Those players include Sharrod Connor, Trey Miller, Jacob Garner, Eric Hombs, and Josh Hodde along with the abilities of quarterback Parker Wallace.
“They take turns, they are so unselfish,” Baldwin said.
The unselfish play Friday night led to the Indians rushing for 460 yards of offense, with exactly 280 yards in each half.
The scoring began on the Indians’ first possession of the game as they marched 68 yards on 10 plays. Seven carries went for seven yards or more before Garner scored on a nine yard run. He then caught a pass from Wallace for the two-point conversion.
MMA responded behind the elusiveness of scrambling quarterback Sean Fitzgerald. He had a 56-yard run on the Colonels’ first play before MMA scored but a failed kick kept things at 8-6.
The three-headed monster of running backs (Garner, Miller, Connor) each had one carry of 12 yards or more on the Indians’ next drive. Van-Far/Community R-VI marched 62 yards on eight plays as they scored on Connor’s 10 yard touchdown run.
Hodde’s extra-point kick pushed the lead to 15-6.
The Indians’ defense forced MMA to go four-and-out, which was followed by Connor’s 75 yard touchdown run when he broke four tackles.
Hodde’s kick pushed the edge to 22-6.
Though Nathan Beatty and Kyle Ebers combined on a sack on MMA’s first play after a dropped snap led to a Colonels’ drive ending, MMA made its first defensive stop of the game.
MMA put together an eight play, 63 yard drive to cut the lead to 10.
Then after MMA recovered a squib kick, Fitzgerald had a 31-yard touchdown run as the Colonels scored 14 points in just 12 seconds to trim the lead to 22-19.
The next 22 seconds were similar for the Indians in response as a kickoff return set the ball on MMA’s 35 yard line. Wallace scored on the first play from 35 yards out. After a bad snap, Hodde ran in the two-point conversion for a 30-19 edge.
Van-Far/Community R-VI’s defense locked down MMA on the next drive and took possession on the Colonels’ 31. Miller responded on the first play with a 31-yard touchdown run after spinning his way through two tackles. Wallace pitched the ball to Hodde for the two-point conversion and a 38-19 lead.
In spite of a hail-mary late in the half, the Colonels didn’t score any more points as the teams entered halftime with the same score.
Though MMA’s quarterback had 197 yards rushing in the first half, he was held to just 36 in the final two quarters. He did add two more touchdowns.
The Indians opened the second half with Miller’s 22 yard run and a five yard touchdown run for a 44-19 lead.
Van-Far/Community R-VI then recovered a fumble on the kickoff on the Colonels’ five yard line.
Though the offense sputtered, it gave an opportunity for Hodde to kick the team’s first field goal in several years as he hit a 25-yarder for a 47-19 lead.
“It’s something we worked on a little bit last week,” Baldwin said of Hodde’s kicking game. “I thought if we get a chance, we’re going to do this.”
Two MMA passing plays of 25 yards helped the Colonels answer to make the score 47-25.
Hodde set up the next score with a 45 yard kickoff return.
Miller crossed the goal line after a 24 yard touchdown run for a 53-25 lead. After MMA’s quick score made things 53-31, the long third quarter continued as Connor had a seven yard touchdown run. Hodde’s kick pushed things to 60-31.
Devin Fleming continued the scoring two plays later when he picked off Fitzgerald’s pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. Hodde ran in a two-point score to go up 68-31.
With the mercy clock now in effect, MMA attempted to shut it off with a four play, 52 yard drive to score a touchdown. Verlyn Johnson blocked the extra point to keep the score, 68-37.
Garner added a 15 yard touchdown with 6:41 left. Hodde’s kick pushed things to 75-37. Connor had 10 carries for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Miller added 12 carries for 123 yards and three touchdowns. Garner tallied 12 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Wallace picked up four carries for 24 yards and one touchdown. Eric Hombs had two carries for 32 yards.
“They gained some confidence offensively,” Baldwin said. “…There’s a lot of good individuals around but it’s hard to win a game with a lot of individuals. Being a team, being a group of runnings backs, I think it’s made us stronger. Who do you prepare for this week? Who do you tell your kids you have to stop?”
Defensively, Baldwin said his team will be working on the fundamentals of tackling this week as his team struggled to finish off the play after reaching the ball carrier. The cornerbacks were solid in the win with man-to-man coverage for the most part, making several knock downs with outstanding coverage. Joe Clithero led the team with seven tackles. The two teams finished with a combined 904 yards of total offense. MMA had 164 yard passing and 280 yards rushing for 444 total yards.
Up next for the Indians is its home opener on Friday, August 26 against a new opponent to the schedule, Central from Arnold, Mo. Central is playing its first game of the season as a previous Jamboree scheduled was canceled. Central is a home-school program and will have a similar offensive and defensive look to what the Indians do.