SMITHVILLE – Smithville coach Bubba Tacker knew he had to beat Vardaman to get a leg up in Division 1-1A.
His Seminoles did it behind the legs of quarterback Antwune Freeman.
The Daily Journal’s fourth-ranked small school beat No. 3 Vardaman 28-19 on Friday. The win broke a three-game losing streak against the Rams (3-2, 1-1 Division 1-1A).
“The win is huge for the kids,” Tacker said. “It’s the first time these boys have beat Vardaman. The boys kept their heads up. It would have been real easy to lay down. My boys showed they’ve got the heart and desire it takes to overcome adversity.”
Smithville (5-0, 2-0) had to overcome an early deficit. Lavoris Hatchett picked off Antwune Freeman’s pass in the second quarter and returned it 25 yards as the Rams led 13-8.
Smithville answered when Antwune Freeman went 18 yards with 17.5 seconds left in the half for a 14-13 lead.
The score came after Willie Lee fumbled right into the hands of Kody Hathcock at the Vardaman 30-yard line with 41.7 seconds left in the first half.
Freeman found Damantrio Freeman for 12 yards, then smashed his way the final 18 yards to put Smithville ahead on a two-play, 24-second drive.
“It means a lot,” Antwune Freeman said. “We’ve tried so hard to beat Vardaman. This year we did it.”
Antwune Freeman led the way with 104 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.
Smithville scored the next 14 points to take a 28-13 lead. Late in the third, Antwune Freeman ran the ball 23 yards to midfield and added a 14-yard run before a horse collar tackle moved it ahead to the 21-yard line with 1 minute, 55 seconds to play in the third. He took it the final 21 yards to the end zone and added the extra point for a 21-13 lead.
The final Smithville touchdown came after Austin Loden blocked a Vardaman punt and Turner Sanderson recovered with 16.6 seconds to play at the Vardaman 8. Two plays later, Datrune Freeman ran it in from eight yards out to put Smithville ahead 28-13 six seconds into the fourth quarter.
Datrune Freeman finished with 77 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown pass and rushing score.
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” Vardaman coach Justin Hollis said. “We got beat tonight. We’re not the type of team to make excuses on why we got beat. We made too many turnovers and things like that. They capitalized on them and did what they had to do.”
In the opening quarter, Datrune Freeman’s halfback pass went 30 yards to Damantrio Freeman for a touchdown. Antwune Freeman ran in the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Vardaman answered six seconds into the second quarter on an 8-yard pass from former Seminole Austin Spann to Lee. Bobo Whaley’s kick pulled Vardaman within 8-7.
Vardaman started the drive at the Smithville 8 after freshman Cody Jenkins recovered a fumbled high snap late in the first quarter.
With 10 minutes to go in the game, Jenkins took over at quarterback for Spann and led a 70-yard touchdown drive with a 3-yard score to pull within 28-19 with 5:42 to go.
Vardaman then recovered a high snap fumble but Sanderson’s sack of Jenkins ended any threats.
The teams combined for 218 yards in penalties and 11 turnovers.
BRANDON SPECK/Monroe Journal