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Roxana head coach Pat Keith talks with the Shells during the first half of Friday's game with Litchfield.
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Roxana's defense lines up during the first half on Friday.
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Logan Reardon runs in the open field during Friday's win over Liichfield.
ROXANA — The Roxana Shells kept their excellent 2014 season rolling Friday at Charlie Raich Field.
The Shells dismantled South Central Conference rival Litchfield 36-16 to improve to 4-2 on the season. The Purple Panthers fell to 1-5 with the loss.
Roxana head coach Pat Keith continues to be pleased with his squad's efforts, but not satisfied. His motto has been focusing on one game at a time and continued improvement and the Shells are buying into that philosophy.
“I thought we had some letdowns offensively, but in the end though a win is a win for us and we'll take these wins,” Keith said. “We got better toward the end of the (first) half. We threw the ball a little bit, but we've got some things to work on. We made some big stops on defense, some big fourth down stops, so that's a good thing for us.”
The Shells struck early, scoring on the first possession of the game on a five-play, 53-yard drive. Senior bruising running back Logan Reardon capped off the drive with a 27-yard run into the end zone. He broke a couple arm tackles and rumbled in at the 10:13 mark of the opening quarter. After Reardon missed the extra point, Roxana led 6-0.
It was the first of three touchdowns in the game for Reardon, who surpassed 1,000 yards on the season Friday. He carried the ball 16 times for 199 yards and three scores vs. Litchfield and now has 1,020 yards on the year.
“I feel like that's a goal for every running back in high school,” Reardon said of going over 1,000 yards. “But it feels good. It's my senior year, so it's nice.”
After Reardon's first score, Roxana went for an onside kick and Blake Vandiver recovered the ball. Six plays later Vandiver reaped the benefits by punching in a 3-yard score. He also slipped in the end zone on the 2-point conversion to put the Shells in front 14-0 at the 7:50 mark of the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Vandiver's night would end not long after that. He went down with an apparent head injury at the 2:31 mark of the first quarter and stayed down for awhile before coming off the field on his own recognizance. He would not return, but Keith doesn't believe the injury is severe.
“I think he's going to be OK, but it's a good opportunity for some of our other guys to step up and play,” Keith said. “Blake's going to be OK and he's an important part of the team obviously.
“I think he got his head dinged a little bit, but I don't think it's that severe. We were just taking precautions because it's better to be safe than sorry and we had the lead.”
The momentum of the game shifted a little after Vandiver's departure though. It looked as though Roxana had scored again at the 9:38 mark of the second quarter when quarterback Chance Foss found Sean Porter on a 6-yard TD strike, but a penalty for an illegal man downfield nullified the score. The Shells then failed to score and turned it over to the Panthers on downs.
Roxana stopped them though, forcing them to punt, but the Shells fumbled on the punt return and Litchfield recovered at the Roxana 42-yard line. The Panthers strung together a six-play drive with running back Conner Simmons scampering in from five yards out with 3:30 remaining in the half. Quarterback Ryan Howard then squeezed in on the 2-point conversion to slice the lead to 14-8.
The Shells compiled a strong drive before the break though. Foss completed three consecutive passes to set the stage for Reardon, who raced in on a 30-yard run with 55.6 seconds left. Jarod Foiles plunged in on the 2-point conversion and Roxana grabbed a 22-8 lead entering the locker room.
That was the way it would stand until the fourth quarter. Foss got the Shells on the board again when he hit Alec Revelle for an 83-yard TD strike. Foss hit Revelle in stride and he streaked down the sideline for the score at the 10:28 mark of the fourth quarter. Reardon ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 30-8.
“I missed a couple receivers earlier in the game and I was trying to get it back,” Foss said. “I was talking to (Revelle) on the sideline and we just figured out their coverage and made it happen.”
Roxana's Trace Gentry recovered a Litchfield fumble on the following possession and Reardon tacked on an insurance TD on a 9-yard run with 5:03 left in the game. The kick failed, leaving it 36-8 in favor of the Shells.
The Panthers scored late when Howard found Sean Brune on a 9-yard pass. Simmons ran in the 2-point conversion and cut it to 36-16 with 37.1 seconds left in the game, but it was much too late for a rally.
To be 4-2 and a playoff berth for the first time since 2003 well within their grasps, hype surrounding the Shells is on the rise and they aren't complaining.
“It's one step at a time,” Reardon said. “We're on the road next week and that will be a big one, that's our fifth win, the one we need.”
Keith added, “I think we're getting better, but we have a lot of things to work on still, we'll take win No. 4 for sure.”
Foss finished 5 of 8 for 128 yards and a TD at quarterback. Defensively, freshman Jordan Hawkins secured 1.5 sacks and Porter had 0.5 sacks.
Next, Roxana travels to Gillespie at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 for another SCC showdown.
ROXANA 36, LITCHFIELD 16
ROXANA 14 8 0 14 — 36
LITCHFIELD 0 8 0 0 — 16
R — Reardon 27 run (kick failed) 10:13
R — Vandiver 3 run (Vandiver run) 7:50
L — Simmons run (Howard run) 3:30
R — Reardon 30 run (Foiles run) 55.6
R — Foss to Revelle 83 (Reardon run) 10:28
R — Reardon run 9 (kick failed) 5:05
L — Howard to Brune 9 (Simmons run) 37.1