“We started slow, way too many
mistakes, but I was proud we never quit,” said Vardaman Coach Justin
Hollis in his first game as a head coach. “We showed the character of
our football team by the way we came out in the second half and
finished the game.”
By JOEL McNEECE
The Vardaman Rams rallied from a two touchdown deficit at the half to defeat rival Calhoun City 21-12 Thursday night in Vardaman to open the high school football season.
“We started slow, way too many mistakes, but I was proud we never quit,” said Vardaman Coach Justin Hollis in his first game as a head coach. “We showed the character of our football team by the way we came out in the second half and finished the game.”
Calhoun City got on the scoreboard quick when Demarius Howard returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
Vardaman appeared on their way to answering, but turned the ball over inside the Wildcat 20-yard line.
A mishandled snap by the Rams set up the Wildcats at the Ram 30 in the second quarter. Wildcat QB J.R. Jennings capped the short scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:08 left in the first half to put ‘City up 12-0.
Jennings finished the game 3-9 passing for 72 yards. He rushed for 20 in the game.
It was all Rams in the second half.
Vardaman QB Gene Ruth, who finished 8-15 passing for 110 yards and rushed for 94 yards, started the scoring for the home team with a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Kevin Barnette added the extra point to cut the ‘City lead to 12-7.
After three consecutive fumbled snaps on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, the Rams recovered the last one to take over at the Wildcat 27-yard line.
Vardaman then capitalized on the Wildcat turnover with a go-ahead touchdown pass from Ruth to senior Xavier Humphries for a 14-12 lead with 10 minutes to play in the game.
The Rams followed that score with a successful onside kick, but another fumbled snap turned the ball back over to the Wildcats at midfield.
The Wildcats could do nothing with it, however, and the Rams began to put the game away.
Willie Lee broke free up the middle after a pitch from Ruth for a 46-yard run to put the Rams in scoring position.
Humphreys, who rushed for 69 yards on nine carries in the game, took it the rest of the way on a 20-yard touchdown run for the 21-12 final.
“We had our opportunities to finish it off and we just didn’t get it done,” Wildcat Coach Mike Ray said. “We played well on defense in the first half, but in the second half we didn’t get it done. We let them gain the momentum, and we couldn’t respond.”
“They’re a good football team,” Ray said. “They didn’t get down when faced with adversity, and that’s what we’ve got to learn.”
The Wildcats host Falkner this week in a pivotal region game after last week’s developments. With the Wildcats’ loss to Vardaman, and Smithville’s win over Okolona, the Wildcats’ match up with Falkner this week and Okolona next week have taken on even greater importance if they are to return to postseason play.
Vardaman will continue Thursday night action as they travel to Bruce, who is coming off a 39-32 loss to Class 5A DeSoto Central.
“This week is going to be special,” Hollis said. “Bruce is a great football team. I feel like if we play like we’re capable of playing it’s going to be a fun night.”
Rams Rally To Beat Wildcats
“We started slow, way too many