SYRACUSE — From the opening few series, it was evident, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Red Devils were controlling the line of scrimmage.
Gary Oliver’s squad opened up enough holes on the offensive side and the Red Devils defense completely stymied Central Valley Academy’s offense in cruising to a 24-6 victory during Friday’s National Football Foundation Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome.
Game Most Valuable Player Travis Decker picked off two passes, taking one back 60 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown, to seal the Class B East victory. Decker also caught three passes for 42 yards for VVS (1-0). Alex Oliver passed for 59 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 74, while Jevit Cumber had 61 yards and two touchdowns for the Red Devils, who finished 7-2 last season and made it all the way to the sectional semifinals.
“It felt great,” Decker said of his touchdown. “It’s about the best feeling I’ve had in football.”
Coach Oliver was pleased with the overall performance, especially on defense, where there is a lot of turnover from last season. Offensively, the Red Devils moved the ball consistently, piling up a 292-129 edge in yards, but were hampered by costly penalties.
“We return nearly our entire offense and have just three starters back on defense. I would of thought it would have been the other way around,” Oliver said of the defense outperforming the offense. “Our defense is gelling and we keep it simple and they had a really good game.”
Tyler Rotach had 46 yards rushing and Andrew Rossi caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Oliver in the second quarter for the Red Devils, who play at Mexico next Friday night.
Hayden Shaver rushed for 46 yards and quarterback Riley Brewer found Braden Hoffman for a 13-yard touchdown connection on the final play of the game for the Thunder (0-1). CVA hosts Cazenovia next Friday as the Thunder open their new turf-field complex.
The VVS defense got started early as Rotach intercepted a Brewer pass on CVA’s opening drive to give his offense a short field. Five plays later, Cumber rumbled over left guard for an eight-yard touchdown run to give the Red Devils a 6-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.
On CVA’s next possession, the VVS defense forced another turnover as Brewer was hit as he attempted a pass and Michael Guertin recovered the fumble on the CVA 49-yard line. Once again, the Red Devils capitalized, going seven plays for another score as Oliver dropped back on a 3rd-and-11 and found Rossi alone down the hash to make it 12-0.
Down two scores, CVA’s offense had no luck moving the ball against the Red Devils stout defense. VVS held the Thunder to just 43 yards in the first two quarters which made a comeback unlikely.
The hopes for a second-half rally took a huge hit on the first play from scrimmage of the second half as Decker picked off a pass at CVA’s 37-yard line and returned it 20 yards. Two Cumber runs later, the Red Devils grabbed complete control with an 18-0 advantage.
“The all played well,” Decker, a senior said of the first-year defensive starters. “Everyone did what they were supposed to do.”
If the game was already cemented in VVS’ favor, Decker put a stamp on it on the first play of the fourth quarter as he corralled a tipped ball by Cumber and took it down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown return.
“On the first (interception) I read it and cut under the route,” Decker said. “The touchdown was the same route and (Cumber) tipped it and it popped up right to me.”
Despite the big victory, Coach Oliver knows there’s a lot of room for improvement if the Red Devils hope to reach their goals this season. The offense had a chance to put up more points, but couldn’t overcome mental errors.
“We moved the ball, but had a lot of mistakes and penalties that killed drives,” Oliver said. “But I think we’ll be okay.”
National Football Foundation Kickoff Classic
VVS 24, CVA 6
CVA 0 0 0 6–0
VVS 12 0 6 6–24
V-Jevit Cumber 8 run (kick failed)
V-Andrew Rossi 16 pass from Alex Oliver (run failed)
V-Cumber 5 run (pass faield)
V-Decker 60 interception return (kick blocked)
C-Braden Hoffan 13 pass from Riley Brewer