The Rangers were able to overcome three turnovers and capitalized on one big play to beat the Pointers Thursday 8-0 in the River Valley Conference opener at Mayo-Thompson Stadium.
Van Buren’s defense proved to be more burdensome during the second match-up as Darby was unable to convert any of its third downs (six), but did convert a trio of fourth downs, including two in the opening drive of the game.
The Rangers stuck mainly with its running game and had 133 yards on 26 carries. Of those carries, Van Buren halted Darby 14 times for two yards or less. Zion Releford had one run (on a reverse) for 52 yards, but finished with a game-high 56 yards. Darby completed just two passes for 74 yards.
Darby halfback Matthew Pittman threw a pass to a wide open Justin Lopez for about 20 yards and Lopez ran the rest of the way for a 72-yard touchdown with 1:24 remaining in the second quarter.
The Rangers ran away with the 22-7 win in the first meeting at the start of the season and the Rangers finished with 215 yards on 38 carries in that game as well.
"The biggest deal for us is to get better each day and each week," said first-year head coach Adam Pendergrass. "We are getting better. There’s a big difference from the way we looked at Week 1 to (Thursday) night."
Van Buren had a chance to tie up the game after forcing Darby to go three-and-out from their own 40 late in the fourth quarter. Gage Bowlin caught the punt at about the Pointer 40 and returned it back to the Darby 45 to set up the final drive of the night with 1:43 remaining in the game.
The Pointers were able to move to the Darby 22 with 10 seconds left as quarterback Kyan Rose tried for an end zone shot on fourth-and-2. The pass came up short, but Van Buren got new life when a personal foul was called, and the Pointers had one more shot with four seconds remaining from the Darby 11.
The pass went incomplete.
"We had a chance there at the end. We just got to find a way to finish," said Pendergrass. "We have to find a better way to get into the end zone."
The VB Freshman Academy halted the Rangers’ first drive of the game as Noah Turman recovered the first fumble on the Pointer 11. Van Buren recovered two more fumbles while losing just one.
The Pointer offense struggled as the ground game was held to a loss of eight yards, with Rose being sacked five times. Rose did complete 13 of 24 passes for 103 yards with no interceptions. Van Buren was 3 of 11 on third-down conversions with six first downs.
Van Buren hosts Kimmons for another conference contest on Oct. 3.
Alma 21, Chaffin 14
The Airedales reclaimed the lead with 4:00 left in the game and the defense stopped the Cougars on a fourth-and-goal to preserve the win.
Alma led 14-0 going into the break, and Chaffin came back to tie up the game in the third quarter.
Coach J.D. Coursey said that the defense "played great all night."
Noah Dotson threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns to Drake Pendergraft for 80 and 58 yards. Pendergraft also scored on an eight-yard run.
Mountainburg 32, J.C. Westside 16
The Dragons led 32-0 early in the third quarter.
Quency Pixley was 5 of 7 passing for 93 yards and added a 14-yard touchdown run. Elijah Wilson caught the 31-yard pass from Pixley for the touchdown.
Riley Dollard had a 91-yard touchdown run and finished with seven carries for 195 yards. Robert Roxin added a 35-yard TD run.