Week 1 ended in a 50-50 split for the football programs in the Vermilion Valley Conference.
Four teams scored first-game wins. Four suffered Opening Night losses.
Here’s a school-by-school recap.
SALT FORK (1-0)
The Storm, ranked sixth in Class 1A, had to overcome a 7-0 first-quarter deficit en route to a 28-13 triumph at Arcola.
“The positives were that the kids had to face adversity and find their way through it,” coach Brian Plotner said. “It was a challenging game against an opponent which has been in the playoffs the last three years.
“We faced an uphill climb and the kids handled it well.”
Senior Lance Hubbard ran for touchdowns on three of his five carries. He reached the end zone three times in the second quarter while accounting for all but 9 of his rushing yards.
“He showed good open-field running ability,” Plotner said.
Hubbard also caught the only pass that quarterback Joe Pratt attempted in his first varsity start at the position. It was a 22-yard gainer.
“Once (Pratt) gets game experience, he will be really, really good,” Plotner said. “He is going to be so much better Week 5-6-7-8 than he is right now. We were not displeased at all, but his upside is very big.”
Jordan Hallett, who moved into the varsity lineup midway through his sophomore season, opened his senior year with a team-high 13 tackles, including two sacks.
“He had an outstanding game,” Plotner said.
Another defensive mainstay was Kye Draper, with 11 tackles and an interception.
Salt Fork completes the non-conference portion of its schedule on Friday with its home opener (at Catlin) against South Piatt.
Plotner said his team won’t be caught looking ahead to its Week 3 showdown at Westville.
“We never worry about anything besides what’s in front of us,” Plotner said. “We told the kids the most important game Friday is the one at 7 p.m. at Catlin.”
The Tigers, ranked fifth in Class 2A, rolled up 434 yards of total offense in their 39-22 victory at Iroquois West.
“As a coach, you appreciate the victory but also understand you have to get better,” Westville coach Guy Goodlove said. “We’ve got a lot of room for improvement.”
Quarterback Matt Maser completed 7 of 11 passes and accounted for 225 yards between his arm and his legs. He scored one touchdown and passed for another.
“He played like he’s been playing there for two years,” Goodlove said. “I liked the way Maser executed.”
Ryan Blue (three receptions), Zach Davis (two catches), Brendan Pratt (one) and Brendon Severado (one) were Maser’s primary targets.
“I liked the way the receivers got out on their routes, caught the football and made yards after the catch,” Goodlove said.
It was back to business for the Tigers on Monday as they began preparations for their home opener against a Momence team that is led by Calvin Phillips, a junior who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota. Phillips sat out the Redskins’ opener.
“We’re done patting ourselves on the back,” Goodlove said. “Our speed is making up for a lot of our mistakes and we need to get those mistakes corrected.
“Our focus is getting better. We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to reach our goals. We know what Phillips is capable of doing, He is probably the best 2A running back in the state.”
Severado (10 tackles) and Pratt (nine stops) were the defensive leaders. Severado also intercepted a pass.
“He did a super job at linebacker,” Goodlove said. “Defensively as a team, we played well in areas.”
MILFORD/CISSNA PARK (1-0)
The first-year football cooperative between Milford and Cissna park produced a victorious start as the Bearcats rallied to edge Martinsville 14-10.
“When we showed up on that field, our kids were as nervous as I’ve ever seen them,” coach Nate Albaugh said. “It took us a while to get rolling.”
The jitters lingered longer for several squad members, prompting the second-year coach to change some of his play-calling.
“Some of the kids we’ll be depending on were so nervous, I didn’t feel comfortable going to them offensively,” Albaugh said. “We put it in the hands of our horse, Kyle Evans.”
Evans carried the ball on 26 of MCP’s 43 running plays.
“We went to him time and time again, and the bottom line is you can count on the kid,” Albaugh said.
Evans’ twin brother, Kristopher, completed 8 of 12 passes for 90 yards. Justin Flinkman hauled in six receptions for 52 yards.
“When we needed a big play, the kids continued to get it done,” Albaugh said. “I’m proud of the way we got it done.
“Defensively, the kids defended passionately. We were flying to the football and often had two, three or four jerseys making tackles.”
Kyle Evans had a team-high eight tackles. Andrew Kelnhofer had six. Flinkman and Reed Anderson each had five stops.
“We feel we’ll be twice as ready this week,” Albaugh said. “We have an extra day to get perfected the little things we already do.”
MCP travels to Shiloh to play East Central in a 1 p.m. Saturday non-conference contest.
After watching game film of his team’s come-from-behind conquest of visiting Arthur-Lovington, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac coach Gary Denhart felt differently than he did on Game Night.
“Quite frankly, we did a lot of things right,” Denhart said, “and I felt better about the win in the morning than I did the night before. After I watched the film, it wasn’t like a big butt-chewing morning.”
Arthur-Lovington took the lead on the opening kickoff on Bobby Aikman’s return and never relinquished the advantage until the 4:12 mark of the final period when Clay Smith scored on a 3-yard run, capping the Comets’ 13-12 win.
The offensive unit that Denhart started for the first game featured one returning starter from the 2008 offense and that player (guard Jason McGlaughlin) didn’t enter the lineup as a regular until the season’s third week.
One of the team’s most pleasant surprises is tackle Brad Miller.
“In May, I did not project Brad as a starter,” Denhart said. “I told him in a nice way the only thing keeping him from being a good football player is confidence in himself. I told him, ‘You have coaches who believe in you more than you do.’”
From there, Miller has emerged as a standout.
“It’s like a ball rolling down hill,” Denhart said. “He keeps getting more confident and more confident. He has been a feel-good story at camp.”
O/A-P had four backs gain at least 60 yards against the Knights, led by quarterback Trace McClintock, who rushed for 144 yards. Arlen Kerst, Smith and Ryan Strange were the other leaders, with Strange gaining his 60 yards on three carries. He had 46 of his yards on a run that set up Smith’s go-ahead TD.
“He’s a young kid (sophomore) with talent,” Denhart said. “His run kind of sealed the game.”
McGlaughlin and Tyler Todd — each with six tackles — were the Comets’ defensive leaders.
O/A-P travels to Clifton on Friday to face a team which advanced to the Class 2A semifinals last fall.
HOOPESTON AREA (0-1)
The Cornjerkers’ progress in the past year surfaced in the team’s first game. Though East Central rallied for a 21-20 overtime victory, the bright spots were obvious:
—In last year’s 0-9 season, the team never scored as many as 20 points in any game;
—A year ago, Hoopeston had just one game where it was within 15 points at game’s end.
Led by an offense that produced 187 yards rushing, the team overcame a two-touchdown deficit to send the game into overtime.
“I was pretty pleased with the run game,” coach Jeff Ohlemeyer said. “We felt we needed to establish that. The backs ran hard.”
Zach Thrasher gained 95 yards and Cody Eells — who caught two passes for 26 yards — rushed for 85.
It’s a major step forward, though Ohlemeyer said, “At some point, moral victories become just that, but we are proud of our effort. Our program is moving in the right direction. They showed good perseverance by coming back and tying it up.”
Eells scored two of the Cornjerkers’ TDs. Quarterback Tate Compton scored the other.
The defensive leaders were linebacker Andrew Vaughn (13 tackles) and lineman Matt Watson (nine tackles).
Hoopeston’s passing attack was slowed by the absence of Jason Leigh, who suffered a separated shoulder in a non-contact preseason drill. He’ll likely miss Friday’s game against Watseka.
This will be the final year for the football series between the rivals. Next year, both of the non-conference games for Vermilion Valley Conference schools will be against opponents from the Little Okaw Valley Conference.
“I’d like to go out (in the series) on a high note,” Ohlemeyer said.
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM/CHRISMAN (0-1)
The Buffaloes scored first against Villa Grove and still held a 15-12 lead in the fourth quarter of a game they lost, 25-15.
The team’s most glaring weakness was an inability to run the ball. Against the Blue Devils, G-RF/C managed 16 net yards rushing on 31 attempts.
“We had a very difficult time moving the ball on the ground,” Coach Jason Baccadutre said. “You have to be able to run the football to win. We’ll adjust and focus on that.”
One change is a switch to a running back spot for Alex Pratt, who’ll relinquish quarterback duties to Ryan Dieu.
In Dieu’s debut, he passed for 110 yards, completing 5 of 11 attempts. Pratt was 6 for 11 in the opener for 80 yards.
“That’s the route we’re going to go,’ Baccadutre said. “We’re a better team that way.”
The offense sputtered with eight turnovers (four lost fumbles and four interceptions), but the defensive did its part, forcing Villa Grove into six turnovers.
“I was thoroughly impressed with our defense,” Baccadutre said. “We played very, very hard and with a lot of enthusiasm. The defense in general played well and we hope the offense will come around and we’ll keep getting better and better.”
Brandon Herrin (14 tackles), Korie Vire (10 stops) and Pratt (nine) were the defensive leaders.
Except for some scrimmage situations, Friday’s opener was the team’s first full-blown live-game situation of the fall. The team’s annual Soap Scrimmage was rained out.
“It took us a while to figure it out, but when you play hard, you’ll be all right,” Baccadutre said. “It wasn’t lack of effort. Villa Grove is an outstanding team and had a lot to do with why we couldn’t run the ball.”
The Buffaloes play their road opener this week, facing Arthur-Lovington in Arthur.
The Hilltoppers face the second of three consecutive road games to start the season, traveling to Champaign on Friday for a contest with unbeaten St. Thomas More.
Schlarman dropped its opener, 47-18, at Lake Forest Academy, despite a two-TD performance from quarterback Heath Goodwin. One of his runs was a 65-yard romp.
Goodwin led the team in rushing with 134 yards and added 92 passing, hooking up with David Schlecht for 81 of those yards. Goodwin threw an 11-yard scoring strike to Lucas Spezia.
“We competed real hard for 48 minutes,” head coach Mike High said. “When youth is a factor, you’ll have a wide range of ups and downs. We had a lot of mistakes, but had a lot of young kids playing.”
Only seven non-freshmen or non-sophomores played in the game for Schlarman. Two other juniors will be ready for this week. Trent Mangum was sidelined with a pulled groin and Alex Torres was recovering from a back injury.
“We’re challenging each of our players to try and develop their skills, improve their technique and fundamentals,” High said. “What we’re emphasizing most is trying to be consistent and getting better in everything we do.
“We have to learn how to play the game of football correctly.”
One pre-game area of concern turned out not to be a problem.
“Our offensive line did a nice job,” High said. “That’s an area we were worried about. If your line doesn’t do a good job, it can be a long night.”
The team’s defensive leaders were Kyle Golden (12 tackles), Skylar Dodge (seven) and Tyler Mangum (six).
The Blue Devils were held scoreless and to 118 total yards by St. Thomas More in their 27-0 first-game loss at home. The Sabers picked off five passes.
Dakota Patton caught three of B-H’s four completions and had 48 receiving yards. The team’s top rusher was Reed Collins with 38 yards. He also led the defensive unit with 12 tackles. Josh Kessler was in on eight tackles and Adam Baker intercepted a pass.
After comparing the time of possession for each school, B-H coach Mark Dodd said he was “pretty pleased,” by the performance of the Blue Devils’ defensive platoon.
“Without us moving the ball (six total first downs and eight turnovers), they had the ball most of the time and we gave up 14 first downs and 249 yards,” Dodd said. “That’s not that poor, considering how much they had the ball.”
Dodd said the Blue Devils need to regroup prior to traveling to Villa Grove on Friday, but wholesale changes aren’t needed.
“We’ll try not to panic,” he said. “We can learn a lot from what we saw on film. St. Thomas More did some things to make it difficult for us, but we did not execute. Our offensive line, which we thought would be a strength, had a poor night.
“You have to understand, sometimes the other team is better, but a lot of it was us. We missed assignments and didn’t hit the holes.”
When the schools’ junior varsity squads played on Monday, Bismarck-Henning posted an overtime win.