Saunders leads Van Buren in win over CardinalCardinal’s Tyler Albert scores two touchdowns
“It’s exactly what Jordan would have wanted.”
Those words came from Van Buren quarterback Garrett Saunders. After rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown in a 14-13 victory over Cardinal Friday night, his thoughts went immediately to Jordan Baker, a teammate who was killed in July in a farming accident.
“It was a team effort and Jordan was up there helping us out there on that one,” Saunders said.
The Warriors fell behind early. Behind its defense and a strong running game, Cardinal took the lead early. Tyler Albert rushed for 106 yards and a second quarter touchdown. Albert also caught 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Potts. At halftime, the Comets led 13-7.
Then Saunders took over. On Van Buren’s first drive of the second half, Saunders took an option play to the left 56 yards to the house. The Warriors took a 14-13 lead.
“Saunders played a heck of a game,” Van Buren head coach Mike Hurley said. “I put a lot of responsibility on that young man and he does a great job.”
Van Buren’s defense would never allow Cardinal to get back on track. Penalties and missed opportunities were the theme for the Comets in the second half.
“Our run game was good early, and when they started to take that away we couldn’t make them pay in the passing game,” Cardinal head coach Adam Hadenfeldt said. “To their credit they didn’t allow us to do what we wanted to do.”
With three minutes to go Cardinal desperately tried to move the ball downfield. Cardinal quarterback Tyler Batterson, who split time under center with Potts, threw an interception. It was caught by, who else, Saunders.
“There wasn’t much time left and we knew they were going to throw the ball deep,” Saunders said. “We just stayed focused.”
The Comets would get one more chance, but the Warriors shut the door. Justin Haggans recorded a sack deep in Comet territory that finished the game.
“We came out and had two minutes to win a ball game, and that’s all you can ask for,” Hadenfeldt said. “If we do that all nine weeks this year, we’ll take it. We’re hoping for better outcomes, but this was a good learning experience.”
Mike Owings helped out Albert with an additional 40 yards on the ground. Nathan Yeager led Cardinal with 13 total tackles. Van Buren’s Aaron Clemens rushed for 72 yards and scored the other Warriors touchdown. Brandon Plecker caught all five of Saunders passing completions, which totaled 84 yards.
After the game each team huddled together to hear their coach’s closing thoughts. The 50 yards that separated them did not account for the miles between their emotions. Cardinal let the game slip through their fingers, which was why they shared dismal expressions. The Warriors were all cheers and smiles.
“We haven’t had a lot of success in the past and today was a good day,” Hurley said. “We worked our butts off all week. We cut down on our mistakes, which is what we wanted to do.”
Even the head coaches were thinking exact opposite thoughts.
“We’re going to give them the weekend to soak their wounds a little bit and then we’ll come back on Monday and get after it,” Hadenfeldt said.
It doesn’t get any easier for either team the rest of the season. This week Van Buren hosts West Burlington and Cardinal travels to Danville.