VAN BUREN -- It had been 755 days since the Van Buren football team had won on its home turf.
But after 10 straight losses -- dating back to a win over Rogers Heritage in 2016 -- the Pointers finally gave the fans at Blakemore Field a reason to leave happy again.
Van Buren 38, Rogers Heritage 0
Van Buren^0^11^20^7 ^—^38
Van – Flores 19 field goal, 10:44
Van – Ball 83 interception return (Nicholas run) :30
Van – Phillips 45 run (Flores kick) 10:16
Van – Bartholomew 32 pass from Phillips (kick failed) 5:20
Van – Phillips 71 run (Flores kick) 2:27
Van – Bartholomew 20 pass from Phillips (Flores kick) 5:53
Van Buren (3-4, 2-2 7A-West) got stellar defensive play, and a second-half offensive outburst Friday night to blast Heritage once again, 38-0 on Homecoming.
"We just responded -- responded to adversity, responded by coming out and playing as a whole team," said Van Buren first-year coach Casey Dick. "It was awesome just to watch them come together, and come out and compete."
The win also keeps the Pointers alive in the 7A-West race to qualify for the playoffs.
"Like I told our kids, it's the biggest game, because it's the next game," Dick said. "We've just got to focus on who we are right now, then we'll worry about everything else once it lines out."
The biggest shift in the game for Van Buren was making a switch at quarterback in the second half. Sophomore Gary Phillips came off the bench after halftime and put on an offensive show.
Phillips ran the ball 10 times for 189 yards, including two long touchdown runs. He also completed 9 of 14 passes for 126 yards and two more touchdowns, both to Jude Bartholomew.
"At halftime coach told me I was going in, so be ready," Phillips said. "Honestly, I was nervous that first drive. But after we got that first drive going I started to feel comfortable, and it just felt natural to me."
Van Buren scored on its first three drives of the second half. First on a 54-yard Phillips run, followed by a 32-yard completion to Bartholomew to put the Pointers up 24-0.
Phillips then extended to lead to 31-0 with a dazzling 71 gallop down the left sideline with 2 minutes, 27 seconds to play in the third quarter.
"I couldn't have done it without my offensive line," Phillips said. "They just kept opening up the holes and giving me some great lead blocks."
The first half was much less eventful as both offenses struggled to continue drives.
Van Buren finally scratched the scoreboard early in the second quarter, after taking over at the Heritage 42-yard line. The Pointers chiseled away with an eight-play drive to the War Eagles 2, but had to settle for Chris Flores 19-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 10:44 to play in the half.
After the teams exchanged punts once again, Van Buren's Devin Swearingen forced a Heritage fumble that teammate Landrey Wilkerson pounced on at the War Eagles' 43. But a muffed snap on 4th-and-four gave the ball right back to the visitors.
Heritage (0-8, 0-4) responded with its longest drive of the game, moving deep inside Pointer territory. But on the eighth play of the drive, Van Buren's Trent Ball stepped in front of a Zach Brown pass and rambled back 83 yards to paydirt with :30 remaining before the half. Jackson Nicholas took the direct snap on the successful conversion run to extend the lead to 11-0.
The Pointers outgained the War Eagles 461-173 in total offense, holding Heritage to 146 on the ground and just 27 through the air.
"If we can do that week in and week out, then we'll be OK," Dick said. "Our defense did a phenomenal job all night. They kept pressing and kept pressing, and finally started clicking."
Sports on 10/13/2018
Print Headline: PREP FOOTBALL: Pointers earn home win