Turnovers spell defeat for Red Devils
By Slade Gilmer for the FCT
Untimely turnovers and a rough start hurt Vina as the team fell 20-8 to Phillips at James Glass Stadium in Bear Creek Oct. 16, in a Class 1A, Region 8 matchup.
The Red Devils committed five turnovers as well as had a bad snap on a punt, which led directly to 14 Phillips points. Vina failed to clinch its first state playoff appearance in six years.
Phillips won the toss and elected to receive. With a controlled ground game, and some missed tackles, the Bears used eight plays to cover 63 yards to put the game’s first points on the board. Twice, the Bears faced third-and-long on the drive, and both times, Phillips hit long runs – one a nine-yard run on third-and-six by Evan Crowe, the second a 40-yard touchdown run by Josef Bates on third-and-seven. The two-point try failed, leaving the Bears a 6-0 lead.
Vina got a good kickoff return from Joseph Emerson to the Red Devil 48 on the ensuing kickoff, but a fumble on second down stalled the drive and forced a punt. However, the snap sailed over the punter’s head, and he was smothered by a gang of Bear tacklers at the Red Devil 25.
Bates took the next hand-off for 20 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the five, and he followed up with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal. This time, the two-point try was good, making the score 14-0 Phillips.
Vina committed its first turnover of the night on the next series, but the Red Devil defense stood tall, with several defenders throwing Crowe for a three-yard loss on a second-down play and forcing a Bear punt.
The Red Devil offense finally got a little bit of traction, moving the ball into Phillips territory, but the drive stalled at the 44, and Bates returned a 30-yard punt 19 yards to the Phillips 33.
After forcing another punt, Vina put together its best drive of the night.
Starting at their own 20, the Red Devils ran for 10 straight times for 58 yards and, aided by a facemask, found themselves on the Bear 17-yard line. A five-yard loss on first down looked to put the Red Devils behind the 8-ball, but a little razzle-dazzle changed things. Runningback Tyler Renfrow took a pitch and then fired a pass to Blake Hester, who had gotten behind the Bears’ secondary. The 22-yard touchdown pass, and Joseph Emerson’s two-point conversion, cut the Phillips lead to 14-8 with just seconds remaining before halftime.
The Red Devils took momentum into the locker room despite trailing. However, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, Crowe picked off an errant pass and returned it 16 yards to the Red Devil 34. Eight plays later, Adrian Flores powered in from three yards out to extend the Bears’ lead to 20-8.
From there, Vina’s offense fumbled again, and Phillips recovered at the midfield stripe. Vina’s defense stood tall, forcing a punt, but was backed up to its own eight-yard line.
The Red Devils methodically moved into Bears territory, aided by a fourth-down conversion by Renfrow. However, facing another fourth down, a Bear defender knocked the ball loose and recovered at the Vina 41.
The Red Devil defense again stiffened, stopping the Bears short on a fourth-and-two from the Vina 17, but Vina’s next drive ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down. The Bears were unable to do much at that point, and Vina got the ball back with one more shot at a miracle. However, Crowe ended those hopes with his second interception of the game, and Phillips was able to run out the clock.
The Red Devils gained 133 yards on 44 carries – a number skewed somewhat by the errant snap on the punt – and had 22 yards through the air. Phillips had 195 yards on 40 carries, but only 107 of those came after the first two drives for Phillips saw them rush for 88 on 11. The Bears also completed three passes in 13 for 42 yards.
Renfrow finished the night with 60 yards rushing on 12 carries and one completion for 22 yards and a touchdown. Emerson had 63 yards rushing on 12 carries and added Vina’s two-point conversion.
With the win, Phillips improved to 6-2 on the season and 4-1 in region play. The Bears have an outside shot at winning 1A, Region 8, if they can defeat Decatur Heritage next Friday. Decatur Heritage upset Hackleburg, 9-8, to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the region title.
Vina, meanwhile, dropped to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in 1A, Region 8 action. The Red Devils still control their own playoff destiny, however. A win Friday over Shoals Christian (1-5) in the team’s final home game would clinch the fourth spot in the region and the school’s first playoff berth since 2009.