Draven Smith rushed for nearly 200 yards and scored three touchdowns as Vilonia ran past Huntsville 43-9 in 5A West football action Friday at Eagle Stadium.
The visiting Eagles improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in conference, while the hometown Eagles fell to 1-4 and 0-2.
Huntsville played without several starters who were out with injuries. Slayter Watkins (calf), Justin Reynolds (shoulder) and Alejandro Gamez (broken hand) were in street clothes for the game. Also out were Tristyn Woodruff (shoulder) and Hunter Cornelison, who is recovering from knee surgery this summer. Junior quarterback Brooks Wiggins was available to play after going through the concussion protocol, but only saw action as a holder on an extra-point kick and a field goal.
Vilonia quarterback Austin Myers completed 8-of-13 pass attempts for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Huntsville’s sophomore Braden Carter completed 19-of-31 attempts for 134 yards and one interception for Huntsville. The rushing attack was held to minus-7 yards on 17 carries.
Hunter Vanderpool intercepted a pass for Huntsville while Gabe Dasen and Eoin May recovered fumbles.
Offensive coordinator Zack Wiggins told the Eagles after the game that “lesser men” would have quit.
“I told them there’s not been a single part of the season that I’ve been more proud of them than I am right now, this game, because of the toughness they showed, the heart that they played with, the energy that they’ve had, because it would have been real easy for them to have laid down with all the injuries that we had from the guys we’ve been counting on,” Wiggins recounted after the game.
“We had guys step up tonight to fill those roles beautifully and we went out there and gave Vilonia everything we had,” he said.
The Eagles had six receivers make catches against Vilonia.
“We’ve known that they’ve been able to catch the ball and do some things for us,” Zack Wiggins said. “We’re still learning how to execute the offense and all the facets of it so it was really nice tonight to see us get those RPOs (run-pass options), get the ball out of our hands and get it to our playmakers.”
Head coach Matt Williams after the game said, “It’s been a tough week.
“Brooks is ready to go. We were thinking about putting him in at the end if we had gotten the ball back, but we didn’t. He’ll be ready to go next week.”
Williams also spoke highly of his sophomore QB.
“Braden (Carter) did a really, really good job. Braden’s gotten a lot better over the last couple of weeks.”
Williams said the coaches would discuss this week who would start against Clarksville on Friday.
“Brooks was a starter when he got hurt and we’re not going to punish him for getting hurt. Braden come in and he’s done a really good job,” Williams said. “Brooks is going to play next week but as far as (playing) both of them we’ll just have to talk about it and see.”
Williams said Huntsville played hard despite being short-handed. Vilonia dressed out more than twice as many players as the hometown Eagles.
“I thought last week (at Greenbrier) we played hard. I can’t fault their effort. We were sitting there at halftime talking about how we played a lot better. We played a lot better this week,” he said.
“We played with a lot of heart and these guys were fired up and ready to go. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of these guys. They never quit and they love to play football and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Williams said that several players saw more action against Vilonia than they had all season.
“They saw tonight that they were needed and they came in and they played and they played hard and they did a good job, so now they know that they can do it if they’re needed. And that’s a good thing. You never want people injured, but that’s the one good thing that came out of this was we got some other guys some experience, let them get some confidence.”
Sophomores, such as Dylan Sieber and Kolton Reynolds, and junior Gus Comer stepped up, especially as receivers.
“The sophomores who played, those guys are young, those guys are sophomores ... those guys are good players and they’re going to be a big part of what we do going on down the road,” Williams said.
“And there are other ones too. You can’t say enough about Tucker (Bradley). You like his energy and enthusiasm. He’s an athlete. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are getting a lot of good experience in the 5A that’ll pay off a lot later on down the road.”
Kolton Reynolds caught six passes for 51 yards against Vilonia while Bradley had five catches for 58 yards. Comer caught a pair for 26 yards while Sieber had three catches.
Williams said the offensive line, featuring two seniors and three juniors, is improving.
“All those guys are doing a great job on the offensive line. The good thing right now is on the offensive and defensive side of the ball we’ve got to where we don’t have to play them both ways. Of course Colby (Shepherd) does, but other than that we don’t play a lot of guys both ways a lot. They’ll spot play but they don’t play both ways a lot.”
Vilonia led 15-0 after quarter and 29-6 at halftime on Friday.
Carter scored on a QB keeper with 2:32 left in the first half. The drive began after Dasen’s fumble recovery.
Smith scored from 34 yards out before halftime.
Seth Kirk added a 2-yard run in the third quarter, then Myers connected with Tyler Moran on a 48-yard TD strike. The extra-point kick gave Vilonia a 43-6 lead, which invoked the state’s sportsmanship rule and nonstop clock the rest of the game.
Junior Oscar Martinez booted a 28-yard field goal with 6:17 left in the game for Huntsville, cutting the lead to 43-9.
The Eagles on Friday will celebrate homecoming by hosting the Clarksville Panthers (3-2, 0-2). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium.
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The Junior Eagles won a pair of games at home last week against Green Forest.
The Junior High team won 12-6 after leading 6-0 at halftime. The Huntsville seventh-grade team also won 12-6.
In the junior high game, QB Amos Mayes threw a 36-yard pass to Phillip Litterell and a 32-yarder to Dakota Copeland. Litterell also recorded a pass interception.
Mayes passed for 119 yards, Copeland ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns, and Litterell had three catches for 76 yards.
William Vanderpool recorded eight tackles for the junior high team while Andrew Carroll caused a fumble.
The junior teams will play at Pea Ridge Thursday beginning at 6 p.m.