By Tony Hooker
The Villa Grove Heritage Blue Devils used a fine passing performance from Liam Barr (12-15 for 261 yards and a touchdown) a punishing ground game from Luke Zimmerman (18 carries for 117 yards and five TD’s) to overcome the Tri-County Titans squad by a score of 41-19.
The Titans, fired up for their homecoming contest, showed on their first drive that despite their 0-4 record, they weren’t going to roll over and play dead for the Blue Devils as they drove methodically down the field, putting together an eight play, 68-yard drive on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead with 8:25 left in the first quarter.
After Daelin Price (one solo, three assists) fell on a short kick off at the VGH 49, the Devils first possession started poorly, with a bad snap over the head of Barr resulting in a 17-yard loss on first down. Barr, however, wasn’t flustered and found Jack Benschneider (two catches for 87 yards and a touchdown) for a 29-yard gain to move the Blue and Gold into the TC side of the field. Zimmerman ended the drive by bursting up the middle for a 16-yard TD run, and after Price, who is quickly becoming the Blue Devils’ secret weapon, booted the extra point through to tie things up at the 6:26 mark of the first.
Tri County then attempted to answer as they moved from their own 35 to the VGH nine before Brady Clodfelder picked off a Titans pass in the endzone to squelch the threat on the final play of the first period. The Blue Devils got things humming to start the second, as Barr found Benschneider on a screen pass from their 42-yard line, which number one turned into a 58-yard scoring scamper, and when Price’s extra point try again rang true, the Devils had a lead at 14-7 which they wouldn’t relinquish.
Brady Clodfelder (four solo tackles, two assists) snuffed out the next TC drive on first down by pouncing on a fumble at the Titans 37, and from there, the Devils used a heavy dose of Zimmerman to again reach pay dirt. Zimmerman’s nifty cut back run from five yards out stretched the lead, and after Price’s PAT connected, the lead stood at 21-7 with 7:36 left in the half.
The Titans would not quit, however, as they moved to the VGH ten before Carson Howard’s strip recovery gave VGH possession at their own eight yard line. A promising first down play was called back on a holding penalty, and from there, Coach Wilson and the staff elected to not court disaster by playing to conserve their two TD lead, knowing that they would be receiving the second half kickoff.
The Blue Devils wasted no time to open the third stanza as Barr found Carson Howard (seven catches for 130 yards) for 44 yards on the first play of the second half, giving the Blue Devils first and goal at the eight. After a pair of one-yard runs, one from Elijah Kiesel and one from Parker Stevens) Zimmerman turned a slight hand counter into a six-yard TD run around the right end. Again, Price’s aim was true, and the Devils now led 28-7 with 10:13 left in the quarter.
Again, Tri-County showed their resolve by marching 72 yards in eight plays to make the score 28-13 with 6:39 remaining.
VGH, who would not be forced to punt all night, then went back to work, with Barr finding Howard for a pair of ten-yard completions and Zimmerman for a nice 24-yard gain before he turned and handed the rock to Zimmerman who took it in from the four for his fourth score of the night. Price again found his target, and the score stood at 35-13 with 4:13 left in the third stanza.
Again, the Titans wouldn’t stand down, putting together another nice 77-yard drive, punching it in from the two on the second play of the fourth quarter to make the score 35-19 with 11:19 left in the ball game.
Howard would then jump start the Devils next drive by taking a screen pass, breaking several tackles and rambling 39 yards to the TC 15-yard line, where Zimmerman’s eight-yard run and Barr’s two-yard keeper set the stage for Zimmerman’s fifth score of the night from five yards out. This time the extra point sailed left, and the score stood at 41-19, where it would stand as the two teams exchanged possessions, with VGH failing to convert on their only fourth down attempt of the contest. VGH returns to action this Friday with a 7:00 p.m. homecoming contest versus Arcola.