Seventy-one hours and 18 minutes after the opening kickoff at Sanderson, the Leesville football team made one last tackle, the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard and the Pride secured a crucial conference win.
Friday night, a thunderstorm forced the game to be postponed with 56 seconds left in the third quarter and Leesville leading 21-13. Three days later, the Pride exploded for three consecutive touchdowns to pull away for a 41-19 win.
Clay Vick, junior quarterback, completed 15 of 23 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns in arguably his best career performance to date. “On Friday, we came out strong, they just kept up with us,” he said. “Today, we were just prepared and we had a lot less injuries than they did.”
Touchdown passes of 67 and 55 yards to Elisiah Richardson, senior receiver, sandwiched a Sanderson rushing touchdown to give Leesville (4-3 overall, 2-1 Cap-8) a 14-7 advantage during the second quarter last Friday. Two field goals for the host Spartans (1-6 overall, 0-3 Cap-8), however, cut the lead to one point. Spencer Eason-Riddle, senior, rammed in a one-yard touchdown to give Leesville an eight-point cushion just before the storm arrived.
Early after Monday’s resumption of action, Sanderson had an opportunity to tie the game after a blocked punt led to a seven-yard touchdown pass. However, quarterback Jeremiah Bellissimo’s run on the two-point conversion attempt was stopped short with 10:05 to play.
The Pride dominated the remainder of the game. Vick connected twice with Conner Eller, senior receiver, on screen passes, then found him streaking down the sideline for a 51-yard score. After a penalty that originally seemed to negate the score was waved off, the Spartans blocked the extra point attempt to keep it a one-score game.
But two defensive stops deep inside Spartan territory – shutting down a fake punt at the 31-yard line and then forcing a fumble at the 3-yard line — allowed the Pride to pull away. Rushing scores by Mike Dehaney and Trey Keeney, seniors, with 5:08 and 3:20 left, respectively, extended the lead to a decisive 22-point margin.
“My heart stopped a little bit when they blocked that punt, but once our defense stopped them on that two-point conversion…and they put the ball back in our offensive hands, I think we were good,” said Vick.
Richardson hauled in 147 yards receiving, while Eller added 99 yards and Keeney tacked on 29 yards. Meanwhile, Sanderson managed a mere 15 yards passing, completing four of 10 attempts, while rushing for 182 total yards.
Mike Hobgood, head coach, said this was the first game he’s seen (in several decades of playing and coaching football) take place over multiple days, but was proud of how his team dealt with the change from routine.
“Friday night, Richardson just got open…he’s just such a great athlete and Clay threw some really good balls,” he said. “Tonight, [Sanderson was] pretty much double-teaming him the whole time, so Conner [Eller] was able to get open and we were able to get the running game going.”
Hobgood noted the Spartans were a “physical team”, but felt that his players “responded well” to such a style in the run defense. “That was the key because [Sanderson] really had a hard time throwing the ball,” he added.
Despite the unusual setting — after winning the game with daylight left to spare on a Monday night, the team was chased off the field by Sanderson officials preparing for the proceeding soccer game on the same field — Vick was quite pleased with his unit’s season-high 41 points and strong overall performance.
“Richardson…and Eller just got open, [and] the offensive line did great on pass block,” he said with a smile. “All around, I think we just did great on offense.”
Leesville returns home this Friday for their 2014 homecoming game against Enloe (2-5, 0-3). The Eagles have lost five straight after starting the season 2-0, including 20-12 to Heritage on Monday night. The Pride won last year’s meeting 57-27 on the road.