CERRO GORDO –Basic is the only way to explain the way Villa Grove plays football this season.
"We are not a finesse team," first-year Blue Devil coach Chad Musselman said after Friday's convincing 20-0 Little Okaw Valley Conference win over Cerro Gordo-DeLand-Weldon's previously unbeaten and ninth-ranked Class 1A team. "We just go straight at teams behind our big offensive line. I called one pass play all game and (quarterback Jake) Palmer ended up running on that play.
The Blue Devils broke out of the gate running. They drove 80 yards to score in 15 running plays with the opening kickoff to set the tempo of the game. Junior running back Rob Renfrow ran between the tackles for 44 yards on nine of the plays before slashing over right tackle from the three for the score with 6:33 left in the first quarter.
"That first drive set the tone for the entire game," Musselman said. "It gave us immediate confidence that we could play with a team of Cerro Gordo's caliber. This is a signiture win for our program against one of the state's more successful Class 1A programs.'
The Blue Devils were dominant on both sides of the ball as they won for the fifth straight time since a season-opening loss to pull into a first-place tie with the Broncos in the LOVC. Renfrow's had more carries from scrimmage than the entire Bronco team as he carries 44 times for 171 yards while the Broncos had only 42 plays from scrimmage. Travis Parsley added 87 yards in five carries including TD runs of 56 and 23 yards. The only time the Broncos came close to scoring was when quarterback Nathan Lawler had a 65-yard run into the end zone on the next to last play of the game called back by an inadvertent whistle.
"I certainly do," Palmer said when asked if he had the easiest job on the team. "All I have to do is hand the ball to one of the two best backs in the conference and let them run behind the best offensive line in the conference. Our linemen are big, fast, and they get off the ball. I just hand it to Renfrow five or six times in a row and then let Parsley do his thing."
The line Palmer was talking about includes tackles John Westray (276) and John Deedrick (285), guards Michael Pearce (240) and Sam Howard (260), and center Austin Dobbs (260).
"We are just running straight at people and taking advantage of our size," Howard said. "Our backs are fast, and they are not afraid to hit people. This is the second year that Deedrick, Westray and I have been starting so we have some experience as well.
"I felt pretty confident we could win coming into the game, but it still feels really great to beat a ranked and respected team like Villa Grove. The coaching staff has made a big difference. We are serious and light-hearted at the same time. We're just having fun."
One of the changes that appears to be helping the team was the move of Parsley from quarterback to wingback and Palmer taking over at quarterback.
"We had a quarterback controversy going between Travis and I all summer," Palmer said. "Travis was the quarterback last year while I played only on defense. The coach moved Travis to wingback and me to quarterback early in the fall drills. It seems to have worked out well for both of us. We're also more mature this season. We're making better decisions."