Friends face off in 1-1A opener

By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal

Falkner coach Ben Ashley asked Vardaman coach Justin Hollis how many people he would be bringing to Falkner tonight. Hollis said 40. Ashley said he’d have 40 Pepsis waiting postgame in the locker room.
“Maybe those Pepsis will make you feel better,” Ashley told Hollis.
“Those will be celebratory Pepsis,” Hollis answered.
Tonight, the friends and former coaching mates open Division 1-1A play against each other.
“I hate playing my friends. It bothers me and I don’t like it,” Hollis said. “It’s just the way this business is. He’s done a phenomenal job. They’re ranked second in the Journal and he’s got those kids believing.”
Added Ashley, “Anytime you play a friend, it’s difficult. It would be different if it was someone you worked with you didn’t like. I do enjoy competing and Justin does, too. We used to try to beat people together.”
Bill Clinton was president the last time Falkner beat Vardaman. The Rams won 35-22 last season, scoring 21 points off turnovers.
“Our guys understand they have an opportunity here to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time and also to just get off on the right foot in division,” Ashley said. “Vardaman is a really, really good football team.”
Ashley wants to keep his offense on the field as long as possible to keep Vardaman’s potentially high-octane offense off.
The Rams are 0-2 with losses to larger-ranked classes East Webster and Bruce. Quarterback Cody Jenkins was held out against Bruce two weeks ago after a concussion. Hollis got to watch Falkner play Friday because of his team’s bye week.
Falkner is 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in the Journal’s 1A-2A rankings. The Eagles have outscored opponents 124-20. Sophomore Jeramie Lawrence has led a stout rushing game with 420 yards and eight touchdowns.
Injuries hit early for both teams, but both coaches say their lineups will be 100 percent healthy for tonight’s kickoff
brandon.speck@journalinc.com

Today’s Games

BIGGERSVILLE (0-2) AT HOULKA (0-2)
THE BUZZ: Last week – East Union 52, Biggersville 50 OT; Houlka did not play. … Biggersville QB Blake Stacy has passed for 238 yards, 6 TD,
rushed for 133. … Houlka plays its home games at Okolona. … Houlka RB James Buggs rushed for 117 yards against Hamilton.
PREDICTION: Biggersville

VARDAMAN (0-2) AT FALKNER (3-0)
THE BUZZ: Last week – Vardaman did not play; Falkner 50, Benton
County 0. … This is the Division 1-1A opener for both teams. … Vardaman won last year’s game, 35-22. … The Rams have given up 77 points in two games. … Falkner’s running attack is averaging 316 yards per game. … Eagles RB Jeramie Lawrence has rushed for 420 yards, 8 TD.
PREDICTION: Falkner