By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg varsity football team record went 2-0 after a major 35-16 victory over Plainwell in early September.
The Trojans effectively shut down the Bulldogs’ run game. But the Plainwell defense had no response to junior quarterback Jacob Conklin’s arm, or his receivers, who found favorable man matchups and soft spots in the Trojan’s zone defense all night.
The Bulldogs found those soft spots early on a 19-yard strike from Conklin to Chase Myers in the left corner of the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. Conklin’s extra point made things 7-0 early. On the response series from Plainwell, the Trojans used a heavy and deceptive run attack to drive, but the series stalled on a fourth down and four from their own 41-yard line.
Vicksburg took advantage of the good field position and on only the third play of the resulting drive, Conklin hit Myers again for a 24-yard score. The extra point made the score 14-0.
“He (Conklin) did a really good job of throwing the ball tonight and not staring down the receivers, looking them off, taking what the defense is giving you,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said. “And the receivers made plays for him.”
The two teams traded defensive blows back and forth for a few series after that. Cold, rainy conditions resulted in a slick football and a Bulldog turnover on their own 17-yard line. The Trojans capitalized a few plays later with a two-yard score. But the two-point PAT attempt was no good.
The weather came into play again on the next drive after a penalty negated a huge Conklin pass play to Myers. The Bulldogs were forced to punt, but the snap went high, resulting in a safety. On their following possession, Plainwell took the lead 16-14 with 1:30 left to play in the first half.
Vicksburg responded with a perfect two-minute drill. They drove down the field in seven plays with Myers and freshman Toby Stock both catching key passes. Finally, on a third and twenty-three with just 23 seconds left in the half, Conklin threaded a perfect pass to Stock right in front of a defender and Stock’s momentum carried him backwards into the endzone for the score. The extra point made it 21-16 at the half.
“That was really big to go up by five knowing they have the ball in the second half to come out,” Marchese said.
In the second half, the Bulldog defense held the Trojans scoreless. Conklin threw for two more touchdowns to Stock of 30 and 31 yards secure the win. Late in the game Christian Roth had a key interception to stop a Plainwell drive at the goal line.
The whole game played right into what Marchese has been preaching in practice. “I keep telling the kids every week, no matter who you play, you’re going to face adversity,” Marchese said. “Week one we didn’t see any, but week two we did.”
The wins give the Bulldogs some good momentum as headed into their first road game of the season against South Haven the next week, posting a win at 32-6. They next lost to Edwardsburg 54-7 in a blow out.