By Lee Davis
Journal sports writer
And with nearly 300 wins to their credit, that point of view has worked pretty well for the Rebels.
Vestavia demonstrated its philosophy in textbook perfection last Friday night, and Homewood paid dearly for the lesson.
Pounding out more than 300 yards on the ground, the Rebels defeated the Patriots 34-14 before a large opening night crowd at Waldrop Stadium.
Even more impressive was the way Vestavia spread the joy. No less than five Rebel backs gained at least 50 yards on the ground; none gained more than 72.
“I had the easiest job in the history of football,” said Rebel quarterback Landon Crowder, surely not giving himself enough credit. “Anybody could have played quarterback for Vestavia tonight. All I had to do was hand off the ball to a running back.”
Christian Palmer led the Rebel running game with 72 yards on only 12 carries but never reached the end zone. Carter Jacobs gained 57 yards with three scores, and Jordan Johnson picked up 57 yards and a single touchdown. Johnson sprained his ankle on his scoring run.
Crowder picked up 56 yards, and Daniel Gosdin gained 50.
“If we can run the ball and score 34 points, that’s okay by me,” the quarterback said. “I’ll hand off all night if we win.”
Crowder did complete two of seven passes for 56 yards, but this night was about the ground, not the air.
Johnson’s touchdown–from 11 yards out–came with 1:16 left in the first quarter, giving the Rebels a 7-0 lead.
The onslaught continued early in the second period, when Jacobs hit pay dirt from six yards away. The successful conversion gave Vestavia a 14-0 advantage with 10:48 to play in the first half.
Jacobs scored again, also from six yards away, with 4:22 left in the half, raising the Rebels’ advantage to 21-0.
Homewood rallied late in the period. Quarterback Carson Griffis’ 22-yard strike to Devonte Wallace cut the margin to 21-7 at the half.
Vestavia didn’t let up in the third quarter. Jacobs ran eight yards for his final touchdown, and the Rebels were in full command 28-7.
“No matter who we play, it’s the same game plan,” Jacobs said. “We try to shove the ball down the other team’s throat. I had the opportunities tonight, and I’m thankful.”
In the final stanza, the Rebels twice moved the ball deep into Homewood territory before settling for field goal attempts. Wesley Hatchett’s successful kicks of 18 and 34 yards, respectively, topped Vestavia’s lead at 34-7.
Griffis broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown dash with less than two minutes to play to end the night’s scoring.
Homewood’s quarterback completed eight of 12 passes for 86 yards. Wallace caught five passes for 50 yards, but those statistics were scant consolation to Patriot coach Doug Goodwin.
“We had just about everything go wrong,” Goodwin said. “They ran right at us, and we couldn’t stop them. They whipped us up front. What can you do about that?”
Homewood’s offensive effort was also hampered by three turnovers.
Perhaps the real heroes of the night were the members of Vestavia’s offensive line, which repeatedly created large holes for the Rebel backs to dash through for big yardage. For those who complain that linemen don’t get enough ink, here is the Vestavia offensive line corps: Ryan Childers, Hayes Lucas, Connor Koch, Clay Kerby, McNeil Gardner, Austin Chandler, Perry Sims, Ben Cage, Garrett Grenier, David McLean and Whitt Watts.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys on the offensive line, and they work hard and will hit whatever is in front of them,” Crowder said. “I love those guys.”
Love seems to be everywhere at Vestavia these days. The victory pushed Anderson’s career total to 298. If the Rebel train continues on track, the venerable coach will earn his magic 300th win against Huffman at Lawson Field on Sept. 12. Of course, with region opponent Hewitt-Trussville up next, nobody at Vestavia is willing to talk about that–yet.
If Friday night is any indication, Anderson’s simple and devastating philosophy will keep Rebel fans talking–maybe all the way to December.