By Tony Hooker
For two quarters, Villa Grove Heritage stood toe to toe with the ALAH Knights.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they were unable to cash in on any momentum, and the Knights then turned a nice second half kickoff return and short drive into a 7-0 advantage that they would ultimately expand to the final 23-0 spread.
ALAH won the toss and deferred, and an eight-yard kick off return by Ierik Sorenson set the Devils up at their own 25-yard line. A quick five-yard strike from Blake Smith to Carson Howard (four catches for 90 yards) got the Blue and Gold off to a good start, but two more passes fell incomplete and VGH was forced to punt.
ALAH too could get no offensive traction, and Sorenson’s ten-yard punt return put Villa Grove Heritage in business at their 43-yard line. However, Smith (14-35 passing for 170 yards, two interceptions, eleven carries for 36 yards) let one get away and the Knights pounced on the pigskin at the VGH 41-yard line. Zayzen Price (nine tackles, one sack) quickly rectified the situation however, falling on a Knights fumble on the first play to regain possession for the Blue and gold at their own 38. Again, VGH couldn’t dent the Knight defense, and were forced to punt. After Sorenson’s punt was downed at the ALAH 29, the Knights were able to move into VGH territory before Blake Smith made a great read on a forced pass and intercepted at the Devil 37. The Blue Devils offense began to gain a bit of momentum, moving to the ALAH 40 before Smith’s desperation fourth down heave was picked at the Knight 34. The two teams then traded possessions for most of the second quarter before VGH using solid runs from Kehm Shirley (42 yards on twelve carries) mounted their best drive of the day, moving to the ALAH 11-yard line before a holding penalty set them back to 21. Smith then scrambled for 15 to the 6 before taking a sack at the 11. An incomplete pass on third down led to Daelin Price’s first field goal attempt of the season, and it sailed just left of the uprights with 10 seconds left in the half. The Knights then took a knee on the final play, content to go into the locker room knotted at zero.
Arthur than returned the second half kickoff to the Devil 30 and used only three plays to score. The extra point flew true and the score stood at 7-0 with 10:37 left in the third quarter.
VGH then went three-and-out and were forced to punt, and the Knights put together their first sustained drive of the half, which culminated in a 22-yard field goal to set the score at 10-0 with 6:00 left in the quarter. The two teams then exchanged possessions as Chase Burwell (four tackles) began to assert pressure on the ALAH qb as the quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with ALAH taking possession at their own 48. A 21-yard end around moved the ball to the VGH 27 and from there, the Knights used five plays to poke it into the endzone. Once again the extra point was true, and with 9:04 left in the contest, the score stood at 17-0. After ALAH kicked off out of bounds, VGH started their next possession at their 35 when disaster struck. Smith was able to complete a short pass to Sorenson, who lost the ball while fighting for extra yardage and the Knights recovered at the VGH 37. From there, it took them just five plays to put the capper on evening, scoring on a nine-yard scamper to set the final score at 23-0. VGH will travel to Nashville for a 1:30 pm class 2A playoff clash on November 2.