22-15 on Friday night.
For the Bulldogs it was a series of ups and downs the whole night. The special teams play was good at times. The defense played well at times. The offense struggled.
Junior punter Raegan Vaughan backed Vernon inside the Lions 10 yard line three different times in the first half.
After Altus' first possession, a Vaughan punt went 42 yards and forced the Lions to start from their own 2 yard line. Led by defensive backs, James Holt and Omar Nails along with linebacker De'Arteuy Jones the Bulldogs stuffed Vernon's initial series. Three plays netted only four yards and the Lions had to punt. Vernon's deep snapper Brady Surber centered the ball over the head of punter Andy Bell. It sailed out of the end zone for a safety and Altus held a 2-0 lead with 7:23 remaining in the first period.
Special teams made another big play, this time for the first touchdown of the night. Once again a Vaughan punt pinned Vernon back to its on 5 yard line. The Lions made eight yards on three plays and the punting unit went back onto the field. Bell punted to Holt who gathered the kick in at the Vernon 47. The senior speedster went right, ran through a defender and raced to the end zone with 2:43 left in the first period. Vaughan's kick was wide and Altus led 8-0.
Defensively, Altus had control of the game for most of the first half. In its first six possessions the Lions had only 45 yards in total offense and one first down.
It appeared as if Altus would take a lead into halftime after Vaughan punted Vernon into another hole at Lion four yard line with 1:43 left in the half.
The Lions ran three times for 25 yards and then the play that ignited Vernon occurred. Quarterback Trey Schur dropped back and found Tyrane Sparkman open in the secondary for a 45-yard gain and a first down at the Altus 23. There was an incomplete pass and then Austin Weitner carried for 10 yards on a wingback reverse that gave the Lions another first down at the 13 with 21 seconds left in the half. Running back Anthony Hall carried for three yards before Vernon called time out with 15 second left. Schur then rolled right on the boot and found Hall open at the 3. He made catch and ran into the end zone for the touchdown with nine seconds left in the half. On the conversion attempt, Weitner took a pitch from Schur on the option and ran into the end zone for the two point conversion tying the game at 8-8.
That was disappointing," defensive coordinator Jay Benway said. "I thought we were there most of the time, but we couldn't make the tackle. We were really tired. We have to get in better shape."
The third quarter was Vernon's time to shine on special teams. Weitner blocked a punt and set the Lions up on the Altus 34. Two plays later Hall got loose on the outside but the ball was stripped and it bounced all the way to the Bulldogs five when Kipp Moss recovered giving the ball back to Altus.
Two plays later quarterback Adam Guttormsen rolled right and passed to Jones, who maded the catch but was knocked loose from the ball. Vernon's Chad Johnston recovered at Altus 12.
Vernon wasted no time. Schur rolled right and found split end J.B Hardin open in the end zone for the score. Bell kicked the extra point and the Lions led 15-8 with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
On its next possession, Altus went three downs and out and was forced to punt.
Vernon then marched 64 yards in 13 plays for a score. Caul Craighead went in from one-yard out and with the extra point, the Lions led 22-8 with 4:56 left in the game.
Altus had only two offensive snaps in the final period but they did come up with a big play that got them back into the game.
Guttormsen dropped back quickly and threw a pass intended for Davis. It appeared Vernon defensive back Dustin Cook would intercept. But, Davis outdueled Cook for the ball, made the catch at the Vernon 40 yard line and broke free for a 64-yard touchdown reception. Vaughan's kick made it 22-15 with 4:05 left.
However, the Bulldogs would never see the ball again. They started from their own 38 and made three first downs all on the ground to run out the clock.
It was an up-and-down night for special teams coordinator Lyn Hepner. The Bulldogs scored twice on special teams, punted Vernon into difficult field position several times, gave the offense good field position on the opening kickoff. But a punt was blocked, two field goals were missed and an extra point was not converted.
"There were some highs and lows," said Hepner. "The thing about special teams, there is no first down, second down or third down. It's a one-play-and-out and you don't get to do it over. We want to be the difference makers on special teams. What we always talk about is that In close games it's the special teams that can make the difference."
How They Scored
Altus - Ball snapped through the end zone on a punt attempt, 7:23, 1st qtr., Altus, 2-0.
Altus James Holt 47-yard punt return, kick failed, 2:43, 2nd qtr., Altus, 8-0,
Vernon, Tyrane Sparkman 10-yard pass from Trey Schur, Austin Weitner conversion run, 0:09, 2nd quarter.
Vernon - .B. Hardin 12-yard pass from Trey Schur, Andy Bell kick, 1:54 3rd qtr., Vernon, 15-8.
Vernon - Caul Craighead, 1-yard run, Bell kick, 4:56, 4th qtr., Vernon 22-8.
Altus - Devon Davis, 64-yard pass from Adam Guttormsen, Vaughan kick, 4:04, 4th, Vernon, 22-15.
Rushing - Guttormsen, 10-8; Nails, 6-44; 7-19; McCaskill 1-0.
Passing - Guttormsen, 7-15-110, 1TD, 1 INt.
Receiving - 2-5; Jones 2-9; Davis 3-94, 1TD.
Fumble recoveries - Farr, George, Moss.
Interceptions _ none
Rushing - Sparkman, 12-17; Hall, 12-72; Schur, 9-23; Craighead , 7-24, 1TD; Weitner, 2-28.
Passing - Schur 5-10, 2TD's.
Receiving - Sparkman, 2-62, 1 Td; Hall, 1-10; Hardin, 1-13, 1TD; Craighead, 1-15.
Fumble recoveries - Rogers.
Interception - Weitner.