By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
VARDAMAN – Vardaman’s new-look defense was in top form Friday night.
The Rams forced five turnovers and got two big stops late in the game to seal a 13-7 victory over Division 1-1A foe Smithville at Carter Field.
Vardaman (2-2, 2-0) switched to a “hybrid” 4-3 scheme this season with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Boo Griffin. The players have taken to it, and it caused Smithville (3-1, 1-1) all sorts of trouble.
“I love every bit of it, because I’ve got blitzes called up for myself, for other ones. It’s great,” linebacker Cody Jenkins said. “He’s doing a great job himself, coming in his first year. It’s a great defense.”
An offensively frustrating night for Smithville had them trailing 13-0 after three quarters. But then Drew Lann hit Tyler Hood for a 25-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 57 seconds left, and the Seminoles had new life.
On their next possession, they reached Vardaman’s 49-yard line, but Jenkins made a diving pass break-up on fourth down.
One last chance
Smithville got it back with 1:06 to go and quickly reached the red zone with the aid of a pass interference call that made Vardaman’s coaches livid.
But the defense sacked Lann on fourth down to end the threat.
“That goes to show you the type kids I’ve got,” head coach Justin Hollis said. “Even when something bad happens, they still rise to the occasion.”
Donta Walker had two interceptions for Vardaman, while Ta West had a pick and a fumble recovery. Smithville out-gained Vardaman, 283-223, but was undone by the turnovers and several penalties.
“We played as bad on offense as we’ve played all year, and still had a chance to win the game there at the end,” Smithville coach Bubba Tacker said.
Lann completed 15 of 30 passes for 183 yards, with Turner Sanderson making seven catches for 96 yards.
Jenkins, Vardaman’s starting QB, accounted for both his team’s scores in the second quarter on a pair of 1-yard TD runs. He rushed for 82 yards on 20 carries and passed for 80 yards.
Vardaman’s first score came at the end of a 14-play, 78-yard drive. The next one resulted from a fumble recovery by Dillon Landreth, as Vardaman covered 45 yards in nine plays.
Smithville threatened to score before halftime, but Lann was intercepted by Walker at the Rams’ 10.
Vardaman has won two in a row after starting 0-2.