By RUSTY EBERT
---- — KEOSAUQUA — Just a few years removed from not fielding a football team, Van Buren now finds itself in a rare position: tied for second place in Class A, District 5.
Van Buren beat WACO 26-8 in a Friday night home game, to advance its district record to 1-1 and 2-2 overall.
Now, the Warriors hope to grab some of the magic from the 1969 Van Buren team as it prepares for homecoming against 0-2 and 1-3 New London Tigers this week.
With Van Buren among six teams tied at 1-1; welcome to the dogfight known as District 5, Class A football.
Last Friday night, quarterback Garrett Saunders threw for 150 yards and rushed for 106 yards to help lead the "black and orange" Warriors to victory. He also had a game-high 12 tackles and two interceptions.
The win avenges last year's 43-7 WACO (1-3, 1-1) victory.
Van Buren, which never trailed, scored its first touchdown with 8:33 left in the second on a two-yard run by Mitch Garrels. Saunders' run for a two-point conversion made it 8-6. The Warriors took a 14-0 lead in the third quarter on Aaron Clemens' three-yard run with 8:23 remaining. WACO cut the lead to 14-8 with 4:24 left in the game, but Van Buren scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes, one by Clemens on a nine-yard scamper with 2:19 left and another by Vaughn Helling with 49.6 seconds on the clock.
Casey Jones caught four passes for 60 yards, Brandon Plecker had three catches for 63 yards and Brayden Starnes and Noah Whitten each received one of Saunders' throws. Helling had 15 carries for 85 yards and Clemens carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards.
Casey Jones had 10 tackles and Garrels and Dillon Showman each had eight. Wyatt Cole had an interception and Plecker recovered a fumble.
The theme for this year's Van Buren homecoming is "1969" honoring members of the Warriors' last undefeated football team.