By Travis Smola
It’s been a bit of a rough season for Vicksburg varsity football, but the team was able to send the homecoming crowd home happy with a 38-21 win over Sturgis. The Bulldogs did it with a focused running attack that the Trojans could not answer.
“As bad as we got beat last week, we really thought we blocked well up front,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said. “I thought our O-line and our backs really ran hard. Our quarterback made some smart decisions, but I really have to give it to the O-line and the backs.”
Vicksburg chose to defer to the second half on the kickoff, and quickly forced a three-and-out thanks to a Storm Schrader sack. The Bulldogs then marched down the field and capped off an eight-play drive with a nine-yard scamper up the middle by running back Alexander VanSweden. The extra point made it 7-0 early.
On the next Sturgis drive, Schrader came up big again, recovering a fumble at about midfield. But the resulting drive stalled as the first quarter came to an end. Sturgis scored on its next possession to tie the game 7-7. The Bulldogs also punted on their next drive. But the Trojans coughed the ball up again when Aidan Woosley brought down an interception at the Sturgis 28. Six plays later, VanSweden bounced a run out to the left side and to the corner pylon for a 14-yard touchdown with just 20 seconds left in the half. The extra point made it 14-7 at the half.
With momentum on their side, the Bulldogs took the opening kick downfield and converted it into a field goal to widen the lead to 17-7. On their next possession, VanSweden scored his third touchdown of the night, a dazzling, 18-yard run after being hit behind the line of scrimmage initially. He was able to cut it back across the field through a hole to the endzone. The extra point made it 24-7.
Sturgis was able to score on its next possession to narrow the score to 24-14. But Vicksburg recovered the onside kick attempt. And on the next drive, Zachary Kline and Michael Johnson started finding some holes in the Trojan run defense too. It was all part of the Bulldogs’ game plan considering less than ideal weather conditions.
“We harped on them that we’ve got to be able to run the ball, especially when you get a cold, rainy game, and they did that,” Marchese said. “So, it’s really great when you want that and it comes to fruition.”
Kline scored first on a 20-yard rumble up the middle in which he fended off a tackle attempt at the three-yard-line for another touchdown with a little over eight minutes left to play. This pushed the score to 31-14. Woosley then intercepted his second pass of the night to set up Vicksburg at their own 35.
The subsequent drive was then capped off by a 19-yard power run by Johnson to the endzone to make 38-14. Sturgis scored another touchdown late, but by then it had run out of time. Marchese is proud of the team’s resolve, which isn’t accurately reflected in their 3-5 season record.
“It feels good knowing that we got beat as bad as we did last week. And the kids easily in high school could have hung their heads and just mailed it in for the last few weeks,” Marchese said. “But they didn’t. They practiced hard and came out and played hard today. As a coach, you just want the kids to give their best effort, and they did tonight. I’m really proud of them for that.”