By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
FALKNER – Falkner and Vardaman traded blows for nearly 48 minutes on Thursday. In the end, Vardaman opened Division 1-1A play with a 34-26 win, the Rams’ 12th straight win in the series.
The teams combined for eight turnovers – five of them Falkner’s – and 27 points in the fourth quarter.
“That’s Ali and Frazier, two great football teams” Vardaman coach Justin Hollis said. “We made a lot of mistakes but these kids play their hearts out. They’re the epitome of what Vardaman football is made of.”
Nineteen seconds after Falkner (3-1) tied the game at 26, the Rams answered for the last time. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Cody Jenkins found James Avant in the middle of the field for a 72-yard touchdown. Jenkins ran in for two for the final with 6:35 left.
Vardaman (1-2) came out firing in the third quarter. Jenkins hit a streaking Donta Walker in the numbers. Walker made two miss and scored his second of three touchdowns of the night for a 14-13 lead. The lead went to 20-13 on Walker’s 4-yard run to end the third.
Falkner, ranked second in the Journal’s Small Schools rankings, tied it with 10 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game. Sophomore Jeramie Lawrence ran 84 yards for his second TD. Trevor Wilson’s PAT tied it at 20. Lawrence had 238 yards on 22 carries.
Vardaman answered following a short kickoff, driving 52 yards in five plays. Jenkins threw three passes before juking his way into the end zone for a 26-20 lead.
“These guys worked hard for a long time. They deserved this win. Everybody played their hearts out,” said Walker, who had 135 yards on five catches and three total touchdowns.
Jenkins passed for 283 yards on 11 of 18 with three TDs. The teams combined for 753 total yards, 399 by the Rams.
Stroupe threw a 1-yard TD to Adam Hearn to tie it at 26 with 6:54 to go.
“That was just a weird game,” Falkner coach Ben Ashley said. “In the first half, they tried every way conceivable to let us get this thing and put them away. They’re a good football team. The turnovers were really the difference.”