The Vandalia Vandals were one of three South Central Conference football teams with an undefeated record when they traveled west on Rt. 185 to play the Hillsboro Hiltoppers on Friday, Oct. 4; the Toppers were one of two teams looking for a first victory.
Dreamers who follow the Toppers were hopeful of an upset; those dreams were vandalized as the efficient visitors rushed and passed their way to a 54-14 victory which wasn't that close. The first five Vandalia drives resulted in touchdowns; after Hillsboro labored to score with 1:50 to play in the first half, the Vandals answered with one play to lead 41-6 at halftime.
When they used only three plays to score as the second half opened, the continuous clock rule went into effect and reserves played most of the last half for Vandalia. Still, Hillsboro finished with no punt return yards because the visitors never had to punt. One of the three undefeated teams at 7 p.m. did lose (undefeated Pana knocked Greenville from their undefeated perch), but it wasn't Vandalia.
Senior quarterback Matt Wells had a day for his team, completing 9 of 11 passes to six different receivers; the aerial game accounted for 167 yards and four touchdowns although Vandalia stayed on the ground after the quick clock began. Wells ran only three times, but one of those was a 65 yard carry with five minutes gone in the second quarter. He had dropped to pass, but took off when a lane opened; and he pulled away from all pursuers rather quickly.
Also having great success was running back Thomas Ritchey, a 185 lb. senior who carried 11 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. His night ended when he reached the end zone untouched with Vandalia's early score in the third quarter; his other touchdown was the second one his team scored in the opening 12 minutes.
Three of Wells' passes were caught by Gavin Davis. Two, one for 19 and the other for 40 yards, were touchdowns. He also made a pass interception (the only Topper turnover) and a 16 yard punt return. That play, impressive because Davis was at a full gallop when he caught the kick, set up his first touchdown catch, a pretty over the shoulder grab.
The first Vandal score was a pass to Jacob Fickes; the fourth was a pass to tight end Lanny Sussenbach, and the last came on a three yard drive to pay dirt by reserve running back Dawson McKinney with 8:50 to play.
If Hillsboro won any of the statistical categories, it was time of possessions (turnovers were tied at 1-1 because Ian Malloy recovered a Vandal fumble).
Hillsboro ran the ball 46 times and had 12 rushing first downs; their 11 play scoring drive of 82 yards (Joey Lipe scored off tackle from the 3) followed a seven play possession (which included a Lipe halfback pass to quarterback Jace Tuetken for 7 yards). The touchdown drive featured 39 yard and 20 yard runs by Jonah Harkins. Hillsboro ran the ball 17 times for 81 yards in the second quarter as the offensive line jells a bit more each game despite losing two-year starting center Finn Tysko to injury late in the first quarter. (Junior Brady Huber moved from guard to center to replace him.)
Tuetken, who was pursued relentlessly by the Vandals when Hillsboro went to the spread offense, scored the last eight Hillsboro points of the contest. Lipe and Harkins carried to the Vandal 47 after a Ben Taylor kickoff return of 18 yards. Tuetken gained 9, then threw a 15 yard pass to Lipe for a first down at the 19. From there Tuetken gained 10 by keeping on the read option, then broke tackles at the line of scrimmage to score on the next play. He also scampered in for the two point conversion.
This Friday, Oct. 11, Hillsboro travels to 3-3 Carlinville for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Cavies need a win to keep their playoff hopes on track; in the past two games they've turned to running back Colton DeLong for offensive firepower. The Toppers hope to show more evidence of improvement; it's been incremental but steady through the first six games.
October 4 at Hillsboro
Vandalia (6-0) 21 20 7 6 54
Hillsboro (0-6) 0 6 8 0 14
1st: Vandalia - Jacob Fickes 15-yard pass from Matt Wells (Cameron Withers kick)
1st: Vandalia - Gavin Davis 19-yard pass from Matt Wells (Cameron Withers kick)
1st: Vandalia - Thomas Ritchey 8-yard run (Cameron Withers kick)
2nd: Vandalia - Lanny Sussenbach 15-yard pass from Matt Wells (kick failed)
2nd: Vandalia - Matt Wells 65-yard run (Cameron Withers kick)
2nd: Hillsboro - Joey Lipe 3-yard run (kick failed)
2nd: Vandalia - Gavin Davis 40-yard pass from Matt Wells (Cameron Withers kick)
3rd: Vandalia - Thomas Ritchey 7-yard run (Cameron Withers kick)
3rd: Hillsboro - Jace Tuetken 9-yard run (Jace Tuetken run)
4th: Vandalia - Dawson McKinney 3-yard run (kick failed)
Passing: Jace Tuetken 3-13-44, Joey Lipe 1-1-7.
Rushing: Jonah Harkins 13-85, Joey Lipe 17-45, Jace Tuetken 16-21.
Receiving: Jude Bertolino 2-29, Joey Lipe 1-15, Jace Tuetken 1-7.
Defense (Solo/Assists): Jackson Hamby 7/1; Drew Willman 5/2; Andrew Law /1; Ben Taylor 5/0; Joey Lipe 2/3; Dom Bates 1/3; Jonah Harkins 3/1; Jude Bertolino 1/1, 1 sack; Dylan McCammack 1/1; Ian Malloy 0/1; Jace Tuetken 1/0; Brett Cunningham 0/1; Magnus Wells 1/0.