By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity football team met its first test of the season in the opening game on the road against Dowagiac. The Bulldogs had to fight to come home with a hard-found 17-7 victory. “They’re a solid defense and a well-coached team,” head coach Tom Marchese said. “We knew we’d be in a dogfight.”
In the first quarter, both teams had solid drives that eventually stalled before they could reach the end zone. Sophomore kicker Joe Brady broke the ice with a long field goal to make things 3-0 in the first quarter. The Chieftains responded with a long scoring drive that was eventually capped off with a 10-yard touchdown run.
But the Bulldogs responded on the next drive and senior quarterback Brenden Lovell hit a long sideline pass to senior receiver Deondre Lovell to set up Vicksburg at the Dowagiac 17-yard line. A couple of plays later, Brenden Lovell hit senior receiver Blake Rankin down the middle in stride. He broke a tackle and coasted into the end zone.
With the score 10-7 with 53 seconds left in the first half, Dowagiac was forced to punt from around its own 44-yard line. After the Chieftain punter bobbled the ball a bit, junior defensive lineman Joshua Holmes was able to get into the backfield and block the late punt attempt.
The big play set up the Bulldogs at the Chieftain 48. Several plays later, the Bulldogs pushed the ball to around the Dowagiac 25-yard line. On a third down and three with just 14 seconds left in the first half, Lovell hit Rankin again.
Rankin took the ball up the left side of the field and bowled over a Dowagiac defender before getting into the end zone again. The play put Vicksburg up 17-7 and provided a halftime cushion.
It was also the final score of the game. Rankin took the opening kick of the third quarter all the way back to the Dowagiac 17-yard line, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize and a Brady field goal went wide. The rest of the game was a defensive grind in the trenches as each team tried and failed for the most part to advance on the other.
“We left some points on the field,” Marchese said.
Dowagiac did finally get deep into Vicksburg territory late in the game, but ran out of time and downs. The game was a great first test for the Bulldogs as they hope to improve upon last year’s 8-3 record that saw the Bulldogs eventually fall to Coldwater in the District 3 Final. “To bring home the Wolverine Conference title would be nice,” Marchese said.
It won’t be easy, as even Marchese will admit. With senior departures, the team has new players on the defensive line and at the running back position. And the team’s next game is against a very tough Edwardsburg team. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they get the Eddies on home turf this year.
“They’re the team to beat,” Marchese said. Vicksburg plays Edwardsburg at home Thursday, September 1.