By tim cleveland
After a one-win disaster of a season in 2012, Mathews has come together and become a competitive program this season.
The Mustangs entered Friday night’s game against Grand Valley 4-4 and a chance to play the role of spoiler in the Northeastern Athletic Conference race.
A Mathews victory would prevent Grand Valley from clinching at least a share of the NAC title, but Jake Vormelker did it all in every aspect of the game to lead his team to a 22-20 victory.
Mathews coach Mike Palumbo said senior leadership has been the key to his team’s turnaround.
“We have great seniors on our team,” he said. “They show great leadership. Senior Night tonight, it was tough to go out on a loss. Going from 1-9 last year and getting blown out, I think we gave up an average of 40 points a game.”
Vormelker accumulated 323 total yards and accounted for all three of Grand Valley’s touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). For good measure, he also intercepted a pass.
“The line did a great job giving me time to pass and giving me the holes to run,” Vormelker said. “It’s easy to do it as a runner when they’re giving you the holes.”
Vormelker got Grand Valley (4-5, 4-0) off to a quick start with a 26-yard scoring pass to Luke Baldwin just 2:26 into the game. After Vormelker ran in the 2-point conversion, the lead was 8-0.
Vormelker later added a 51-yard touchdown run (again taking in the conversion) to give Grand Valley a 16-6 advantage in the third quarter, and he completed a short pass to Jason Hart, who went 48 yards for the score and a 22-13 lead with 8:27 left in the game.
“He did a great job,” Glavickas said. “I’m so happy for Jake, because he does a lot of things for us. I believe tonight he went over 1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards passing. We haven’t had a quarterback do that in I don’t even know the last time. He’s just so important. Whenever it’s on the line, he wants the ball. He wants to carry it, he wants to get those first downs.”
Wyatt Ford did what he could to keep Mathews (4-5, 1-3) in the game. After Grand Valley took a 16-6 lead, he took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a score. Ford, who suffered a sprained ankle last week, was hindered by a right calf cramp Friday, yet he kicked two extra points and caught a 20-yard pass down to the 1-yard line that set up a run by Austin Arnal that pulled Mathews to within two points with 3:31 to play.
“He fights through it,” Palumbo said of Ford. “I can’t say enough about the kid. He’s a senior you rely on.”
Vormelker came up huge one more time for Grand Valley. Late in the fourth quarter, he rushed for two first downs that allowed the Mustangs to run out the clock.
“Once again, just the line came through,” Vormelker said. “All year, if they do well, that’s where we go. If they do well, we’re going to win.”