Once again, Vero Beach used its customary formula of combining a strong running attack with a ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defense to slip past the West Boca Raton Bulls 21-7 Friday night at the Citrus Bowl.
Also, for the second week in a row a touchdown courtesy of special teams helped to pave the way as the Fighting Indians moved to 2-0 in the early going.
In many ways, this game was a carbon copy of the previous week, when Vero downed Sebastian River 28-10. There were several notable similarities.
Unlike last week, the start of the game was delayed by fifteen minutes when the visitors were caught up in traffic.
That didn’t hinder the Indians, however. They jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead despite a huge disadvantage in time of possession. The quick strikes enabled Vero to turn the game over to the defense and forced West Boca to all but abandon their running game.
Junior running back Dentist Hall’s 13 yard run opened the scoring midway through the first period. Senior Brandon James increased the margin to 14-0 a little over two minutes later with a 40 yard punt return.
A scoreless second quarter gave Vero a first half shutout, identical to last week.
With less than four minutes gone in the third, the Indians faced a fourth-and-one from the West Boca 48 yard line.
Running backs coach Pete DeLuke described what happened next. The play was meant to be a smash mouth effort to keep the chains moving, but it turned out to be much more than that.
“The design was for Jormonte (senior running back Jormonte Hunter) to squeeze through the line on a wedge play,” DeLuke said. “He hit up the gut and the pile kept moving. All of a sudden he broke loose and went the distance.”
The 48 yard run stretched the lead to 21-0.
The Bulls responded late in the third with a 21 yard touchdown pass that narrowed the margin to 21-7, but that was all they had to show on a night they threw the ball up over 30 times. Sebastian River scored all of their points in the third quarter as well.
Vero interceptions hampered the Bulls from start to finish.
Senior defensive back Larry Franklin got the first pick. A nice return gave the Indians great field position and set the stage for Hall’s touchdown.
Late in the fourth, sophomore defensive back Sean Paul pilfered another pass to cut short a Bulls drive deep in Vero territory. For Paul it was another big play and a fitting way to end the game.
He scored a touchdown on a blocked punt last week to put the game out of reach.
Vero rushed for just under 200 yards, a total nearly matching the previous week. On back-to-back Friday nights, the defense has shut down the ground game, keeping both Sebastian River and West Boca under 50 yards. That may be a partial function of jumping to quick leads, but the opponents under two yards -per-carry average points to solid work by the defensive line.
DeLuke saw progress in the quality of play.
“Overall we played better this week,” he said. “We played four good quarters of football. There were fewer letdowns. The defense played very well, the two interceptions were really nice to see.”
The running backs coach was also encouraged by the conditioning of his players, citing the absence of cramping. Additionally, and most importantly, there were no injuries to report.
Now if we have this right, the blueprint is to put up a couple of touchdowns while the other guys are still warming up, then force them to throw the ball, use the pass sparingly (quarterback Todd Fennell is 5 for 10 in two games), and celebrate at the end.
DeLuke preferred to savor the victory at least for the night until thinking about the next opponent.
That would be Ft. Pierce Westwood in another non-district contest next week at the Citrus Bowl.