By Blake Ells
This isn’t quite the Vestavia Hills football team you’ve grown to know.
After defeating Spain Park for the first time in three years, a 28-21 victory on Sept. 7, the Rebels are poised to make some noise in 7A Region 3.
Vestavia beat Tuscaloosa County 28-19 in Region 3 play at home last Friday.
Their first two victories have come not just on the ground, but also on the arm of junior quarterback Eli Sawyer and his favorite target, senior tight end Michael Vice.
While running back Cooper Bishop had 27 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns to help the Rebels secure the win, Vice had six catches for 139 yards and two scores of his own.
“We definitely have a little more balance this year, but we’re still going to be a team that’s based on the run,” said Vice. “We’ll throw it when we need to, and whatever the defense gives us, we’re going to take.”
Vice was more of a blocking tight end in previous years, but his role has expanded in 2018.
“Our quarterback is really good,” Vice said. “He can throw really well. He’s not much of a dual threat, but he’ll sit back there and take hits. We’re just trying to find holes in the defense and he’s really good at finding holes in the defense.”
The connection between Sawyer and Vice came from a lot of hard work in the offseason. The pair spent a lot of time together growing more comfortable with their relationship on the field. With a win over Spain Park now behind them, the entire roster has a new level of confidence; the Jaguars had prevented the Rebels from making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
“It gives us confidence, but ultimately, we have eight more games left,” said Vice. “We’re definitely going to try to win these last eight. We still have business to take care of and we’re going to try to give everyone a fight.”
Vice credits the offensive line and Bishop for the team’s explosiveness. He also credits Sawyer’s other targets, guys like Sean Smyth and Chandler Merrill.
Now Vestavia Hills turns its attention to Mountain Brook, a game they’ll play on the road. This senior class defeated the Spartans in 2016 and dropped an overtime heartbreaker a season ago.
“Mountain Brook has a new quarterback, really good running backs,” Vice said. “They have nine starters coming back on defense. We’re prepping for everything.”
Vice said the Rebels will take the season one game at a time and not dwell on victories from earlier in the season. Overcoming the playoff drought was the top priority for his class. They’re certainly on the right track, but their schedule is back-heavy. If they can take down the Spartans, they’ll still have region favorites Hoover and Thompson to look forward to in October.