VIAN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Third-ranked Vian went into Friday’s second-round playoff game against seventh-ranked Kiefer thinking the Wolverines would best the Trojans.
Instead, the Wolverines fell 21-12 to the Trojans, who had a big night to advance in postseason play. But by the end, Kiefer wasn’t playing Vian at full strength due to injuries that sidelined two of Vian’s key players.
Vian head coach Gary Willis had to make last-minute changes to the offensive line after discovering on the morning of the game that his center wasn’t going to be able to start. The loss in the middle of the line forced Willis to use a guard that wasn’t used to bringing the ball into play for the Wolverines.
“Our center came in that morning and couldn’t play,” Willis explained. “It affected the timing, and we had to move linemen around, and they did a good job, but a kid had to snap that hadn’t snapped – I mean he’s a guard, he doesn’t snap the ball ever into play. So that affected the timing of a lot of stuff.”
The unexpected loss of any starter, especially going into a big game, creates issues. But losing a center is unique due to the critical nature of their relationship with the quarterback.
Without Jeff Crow’s experience, quarterback Diego Ramos lost critical seconds just trying to rein in the snap, which created ripple effects downstream, as everything is based on that foundational transaction.
The Wolverines were able to start the game strong, with Vian scoring on its first possession on a one-yarder by Desean Mays with 7:28 left in the first stanza, making the score 6-0 after the missed PAT.
The Vian defense held Kiefer on its first possession, forcing the Trojans to relinquish the ball on downs at the Wolverines’ 26 yard line with about four minutes left in the first quarter.
The defense held until the Trojans were able to punch in a two-yarder with 8:58 left in the second quarter. But Kiefer missed its two-point attempt for a 6-6 stalemate.
At the end of the Wolverines’ next possession, the Trojans blocked a punt that they recovered. But during the frantic attempt to prevent a would-be touchdown, Vian playmaker Masyn Wright was lost to injury with 7:25 left in the first half, shifting the momentum in Kiefer’s direction.
“Losing Masyn was huge. Obviously, we have backups, but you practice certain things with him and Desean in there together in different positions,” Willis said. “Then when he goes out, you don’t have a replacement in a lot of scheme things. Base plays, yes, but we don’t have the depth. Some of the stuff you run just ‘cause they’re the athletes they are, you know.”
Kiefer received the ball to start the second half, and the defense went to work for a scoreless first half of the period. But Kiefer quarterback Jaxon Worley managed a three-yard touchdown with 6:41 left in the third stanza. Worley then completed a pass to Brayden Barber for the two-point conversion for a14-6 Trojan edge.
The Wolverines made it a 14-12 ballgame after a 15yard scoring run by Desean Mays with 2:19 to go in the quarter, but the ensuing two-point attempt came up empty.
Vian’s defense held until 0:53 left in the fourth quarter when Kiefer’s Justiz Pendergraft made it 18 yards into the endzone. Pendergraft kicked the PAT to put the game out of reach for the 21-12 verdict.
Vian won the total-yards battle with 324 yards to Kiefer’s 293, but the difference was in the secondaries, because the Trojans made some big plays when it mattered, registering 168 yards through the air compared to the Wolverines’ 54 yards.
The season-ending loss wasn’t easy, but the Kiefer squad gets credit for playing well when it needed to.
“Tough loss and hats off to Kiefer,” Willis said. The last game of the season, of course, is tough in its own way. Having to say goodbye to the seniors is never easy, especially when they include some of the school’s new record holders.
“Obviously, Desean and Diego and the seniors had a big year,” Willis said. “We’ll have to get the total stats at the end of the year, but I’m sure that Diego broke the Vian single-season passing record, and that was cool to see. Those two guys were definitely big for us this year.”
The early numbers for the season show Ramos with 1,733 total passing yards and 24 touchdowns, which, if they hold, eclipse Seth Sloan’s 1,634 yards and 22 TDs in 2006.
Ramos threw for 54 yards Friday night, completing 3-of-15, and rushed 10 times for 37 yards, then intercepted the ball while playing on the defense. The Wolverines’ offense was able to move the ball. Mays led the charge with 19 carries for 151 yards, one reception for 20, a punt return for 16 yards and two TDs. Wright had eight carries for 46 yards, Gage Carlton had six carries for 36 yards and Nathan Creasey snagged two passes for 34 yards.
Transitioning to the offseason, Vian is going to have the usual goals of finding new leaders after losing the current ones to graduation. The Wolverines will also focus on nutrition, gaining weight for the underclassmen, getting stronger by hitting the weight room and tasked with replacing Ramos.
“We’ve got to try to figure out who the next quarterback is, and we gotta get some weight put on the kids, which is every year. We’ve got to go hit the weights hard, and we’re looking at nutrition to get them built up to starting roles and just get better,” Willis said. “We’ve got to get kids ready to move into those leadership and starting positions. Some will move around, but that’s where we’re at now.”