The Lions scored their first touchdown of the evening on a 73 yard kick return by James McMillon en route to a 42-14 victory over the Iota Bulldogs Friday night at B.S. Walker Stadium.
And the quarter didn’t get much better for Iota.
In the first quarter, the Lions would strike two more times before the Bulldogs found their way onto the scoreboard. It stopped the bleeding, but not for long.
“That first quarter… we just couldn’t come back from it,” said Neal Legé, Iota head coach, “the whole first half, really.”
In the first half especially, the Bulldogs struggled to sustain drives, following big plays up with fumbles, interceptions or penalties. In total Iota would put the ball on the ground 14 times, losing four of its fumbles, throw three interceptions and commit 11 penalties for 86 yards
“We have a lot of things we have to go back and correct,” said Legé, “and we have to get those things right in order to win.”
Midway through the first quarter, Lions sophomore quarterback Tanner Guidry capped off a three-play, 17 yard drive with a four yard run in on the quarterback keeper. The short field for Vinton came courtesy of a bad snap on Iota’s punting attempt.
A second Iota mistake, Bulldogs junior quarterback J.T. LeJeune’s first of three interceptions on the night, was taken back for a 52 yard touchdown with about five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Before the Bulldogs could blink they were staring down a 21-point deficit and were in for a long night.
It wasn’t as if they didn’t have chances. The Vinton Lions played far from the perfect game themselves committing five turnovers of their own (three fumbles, all lost, and two interceptions) and eight penalties for 53 yards, but Iota could not capitalize and those first 21 points for the Lions proved to be enough to hold off the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs defense, however, proved to be huge, making key stops throughout the game and held Vinton standout D.J. Reed, a senior running back and linebacker, in check most of the night.
“I thought, defensively, we played hard,” said Legé. “He broke off one long run at the end as we were getting tired, but other than that we kept him bottled up all night long.”
While the first half was riddled with mistake after mistake, the second half, the Bulldogs finally seemed to calm down, dropping the number of mistakes overall and seeing more defensive stops. But it proved to be a too little too late combined with Iota’s inability to find a rhythm on offense.
“Our offense put us in bad positions all night,” said Legé. “We have to be able to maintain drives. We played hard in the second half, but we just couldn’t get it going.”
Even with the inconsistencies, Iota gained almost 300 yards of total offense, led once again by Brandon Fantroy’s 144 yards on 28 carries and 63 yard reception. He also scored both of Iota’s touchdowns (a one yard rush in the first quarter and the 63 yard pass in the third).
On Iota’s two touchdown drives, as was the case all Friday night, Fantroy was the work horse.
The first touchdown came with just a little over a minute remaining in the first quarter. Iota picked up one Vinton’s three fumbles on the Vinton two yard line. Both yards were picked up by Fantroy on the drive that took two plays and 40 seconds.
The second Bulldogs touchdown came with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter. LeJeune’s pass to Fantroy capped off a seven-play, 77 yard series. Again on the series, Fantroy was responsible for all of the yardage, picking up the other 14 yards in a series of running plays.
Fantroy’s teammates Thomas Murrell (nine carries for 51 yards), Michael Thevis (five carries for 18 yards) and Timothy Lunson (three carries for seven yards) rounded out the Bulldogs’ rushing attack.
LeJeune added eight yards on two carries of his own along with completing one of his 11 passes for the 63 yard touchdown. He also had three interceptions on the night.
LeJeune’s counterpart for Vinton, Tanner Guidry finished night completing five of his 14 passes with a touchdown pass of his own (a 45 yard grab by Anfernee Dixon). He had two inceptions and 93 yards in the air. Guidry also had five carries for four yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, Reed led the way for the Lions with 17 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Anthone Hillery added two yards on two carries to the Vinton rushing attack.
Iota now can only turn its attention to its home opener against St. Edmund, who lost its first game Friday night as well.
“We’ll keep our heads up and go back at it Monday,” said Legé.