For the first half of the South 5A 12-Man Football League contest between the Peacock Tornadoes and Vanier Vikings on Thursday night, things were very interesting indeed.
Playing a rare high school game under the lights at Elk’s Field, the two teams found themselves in a back-and-forth battle through the opening 24 minutes, with a Tornadoes touchdown on their first possession of the game the only points on the board.
But football is a game of adjustments — how you adjust to what your opponent is doing, and how they adjust to your adjustments. And once Peacock decided to grind things out on the ground in the second half, the contest changed dramatically.
The Tornadoes put up 23 points after the break and would go on to a 30-8 victory, improving to 2-1 on the campaign. Vanier fell to 0-3.
“It was just sticking to the run game, those two guys we have there, (Josh) Johnson and (Owen) Varjassy are great with the ball in their hands,” said Peacock head coach Bert Redstone. “So I think once we kind of settled in and realized ‘okay, let’s just stick with the run game, commit to it’, things went a lot better for us.”
Johnson and Varjassy had a total of 20 carries between them in the second half, with the longest of the bunch being a 19-yard run on Johnson’s first touch after the break. Nothing too amazing or spectacular, just old-fashioned grind-it-out football.
“It’s one of those things where you wind up in second-and-eight and it’s a question of should you pass or should you run, and sometimes you just have to run,” Redstone said. “It’s not the CFL, and once we made those kinds of adjustments, we were able to string together some drives.
“And that’s the key. You’re not going to score every two plays in high school football. You have to take the five-yarders, you have to take the four-yarders and the swing pass for the first down. It can’t be the big play all the time, and sometimes those little ones add up to a big drive.”
It all led to three second-half touchdowns — two for Johnson, who also had Peacock’s first-half major, and one for Varjassy — as Peacock gradually pulled away.
A major part of the difference was recognizing what was working for Vanier in the early going, with the Vikings using a five-man defensive line to stifle Peacock’s offence in the first half.
“Credit to (Vanier head coach) Ryan (Gottselig), obviously he had those Vanier guys ready to play and our o-line struggled with their d-line, especially in the first and second quarter, but once the guys settled down it worked out pretty well,” Redstone said.
Of course, it would be remiss to ignore how well the Peacock defence played — the Vikings were held to 60 yards of total offence as the Tornadoes were able to stifle almost any momentum Vanier was able to put together.
Quarterback Tayden Hardwicke scored Vanier’s lone major in the second half, while Hudson Tallon was their leading rusher with 10 carries for 58 yards.
Varjassy finished his night with 18 carries for 123 yards, Johnson 13 carries for 117 yards. Quarterback Keaton Doerkson was 6-for-13 passing for 88 yards.
The Toilers receive their bye next week before heading into a murderer’s row of games to close out the regular season — the 2021 league finalist Yorkton Raiders on Oct. 1, defending provincial champion Weyburn Eagles on Oct. 8 and the Swift Current Colts on Oct. 15.
“All those games are going to be huge, especially if we want to play a home playoff game,” Redstone said. “We’ve shown we can compete, which is an improvement from last year, but we have to string together some wins, too. So that’s the next step.”
Vanier is back in action on Friday, Sept. 23 when they take on the Central Cyclones. Game time is 7 p.m. at Elk’s Field.
Week three action continues with Yorkton at Estevan on Friday night before Weyburn takes on Central at 1 p.m. at Gutheridge Field on Saturday.
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