By JOE DON ROYAL
Altus High School's Bulldogs made three errors in the kicking game, leading to all of Vernon's points: a field goal, touchdown and safety. The Lions managed to put up a strong defensive stand deep in their own territory in the final minute of the game to preserve a hard-fought 11-8 victory.
"Our coaches and players were really disappointed that we didn't win the ball game," said Altus head coach Jim Holloway. "We kind of let it get away.
"We didn't execute our offense very well in the first half, but they came back and played well in the second half. We failed to convert a key third down in the second half, but other than that I was pleased with their play," Holloway said.
"I can't say enough about the defense, they just battled and battled. We did have a chance to win the game, but we had several mistakes in the kicking game that cost us. We just had too many negative plays in the kicking game.
"I was proud of the football team. They never quit playing, and they played hard all night long. Offensively and in the kicking game we have to make some improvements."
The defenses dominated the early going, as each team went three and out on its first possession. Vernon did manage to gain a first down on its second possession, but faced a fourth and seven at the Altus 45 and punted once again.
A Bulldog tried to field the punt but lost control at his own 13-yard line and Anthony Hall recovered for Vernon. The Lions picked up a first down at the Altus four, then eventually faced a fourth-and-goal at the 10-yard line.
Andy Bell kicked a 27-yard field goal that barely cleared the cross bar to make the score 3-0 with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Jason Kornmeyer returned the following kickoff 27 yards to give the Bulldogs good field position at their own 41. Kornmeyer broke free for a 34-yard gain on first down to give Altus a first down at the Vernon 25.
Three plays resulted in no yardage gained and Kornmeyer attempted a 43-yard field goal. Vernon's Austin Weitner broke free to block the kick and the ball rolled to the Altus 49-yard line.
The Lions needed five plays to cover the distance to the goal line. Quarterback Trey Schur scored from nine yards out on a second-and-goal play when he rolled to the right and dove into the end zone. The extra point kick failed and the Lions held a 9-0 lead with 6:57 left in the second quarter. Neither team threatened to score during the remainder of the half.
The Vernon defensive unit held the Altus offense to just 32 yards of offense and a single first down during the first 24 minutes of play.
The Bulldogs' second possession of the third quarter resulted in Vernon's final points of the evening. Faced with a fourth and three at its own 15, Altus tried to punt out of trouble. Vernon's Ty Anzaldua broke through the line and blocked the punt into the Altus end zone. The ball was batted past the end line for a safety to give Vernon an 11-0 edge with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
Altus kicked off from its own 20 following the safety. A hustling Ray Barrera latched onto a Lion fumble at the Vernon 41-yard line to get the Bulldogs back in the game.
De'Arteuy Jones' first carry of the evening was a big one. The 202-pound junior raced up the middle for a 15-yard gain, giving the Bulldogs a first down at the Vernon 26.
Four plays later, AHS quarterback Matt Howard threw to Mark Shelly on a first and 10 play from the 13. Pass interference was called and Altus had a first and three at the six-yard line. Two plays later Jones went off left tackle, bounced outside and raced into the end zone. On the extra point Howard took a deep drop and went around left end for the two points, making the score 11-8 with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs came up with another key turnover with 5:26 left in the game when Tomas Sanchez recovered a Vernon fumble at the Lions' 49.
Again it was Jones that started the drive, this time with a 13-yard gainer down to the Vernon 36. A tough seven-yard gain by Kornmeyer and a four-yard scramble by Howard gave the Bulldogs another first down at the Lion 26.
The drive continued as Altus used a face mask penalty and a pair of runs by Jones to pick up a first down at the Vernon 13 yard-line. Two runs by Jones and an option pitch to Kornmeyer left the Bulldogs facing a fourth-and-nine at the Vernon 12.
With 31 seconds remaining, Kornmeyer attempted a tying field goal. The ball just missed to the right side of the uprights and the Lions went on to run out the clock.
Shaw, Jones, Sanchez, Daniel Tabon-Cox, James Holt and Devon Davis led a strong effort by the Altus defense.
Kornmeyer led the Altus rushing attack, gaining 56 yards on 13 carries. Kornmeyer also kept the Lion offense away from the goal line by booming five punts for a 37.6 yard average.
Jones was next with 50 yards on nine attempts. Alex Fisher, Trey Walker, Andy Curtis, Sanchez, John Mandery and Braden Cunningham led the way in the offensive line.
Shelton led the Lion rushing game with 80 yards on 13 carries. Wesley was next with 50 yards on eight attempts.
The Bulldogs will face another tough foe next week when they host Class 4A power Clinton, a 27-21 victor over Carl Albert.
HOW THEY SCORED
VERNON - Andy Bell 27 field goal, VERNON 3-0, :16 1st qtr.
VERNON - Schur 9 run (kick failed) VERNON 9-0, 6:57 2nd qtr.
VERNON - Anzaldua blocked punt for safety, VERNON 11-0, 4:26 3rd qtr.
ALTUS - Jones 4 run (Howard run) VERNON 11-8, 5:26 4th qtr.
ALTUS - Jason Kornmeyer, 13-56; Matt Howard, 4- minus 11; Omar Nails, 2-7; De'Arteuy Jones 9-50-1 TD; James Holt, 1-1.
VERNON - Trey Schur, 5-0-1 TD; Antonio Shelton, 13-80; Dupree Wesley, 8-50; Anthony Hall, 7-33.
ALTUS - Howard, 5-12-23.
VERNON - Schur, 3-4-31.
ALTUS - Shawn McBlain, 1-12; Devon Davis, 2-2; Kyle Denton, 1-2; Moose Wathen, 1-7.
VERNON - Eric Favors, 2-21; Matthew Gonzales, 1-10.
ALTUS - Kornmeyer, 5-37.6.
VERNON - Shelton, 4-31.8.
ALTUS - Ray Barrera, Tomas Sanchez.
VERNON - Hall.
TACKLES FOR LOSS
ALTUS - Jones, Roger Shaw 3, Sanchez.
VERNON - Austin Weitner, Ty Anzaldua.