Courier Staff Writer
OTTUMWA — Coming off an all-state season on the diamond that helped lead Van Buren to a magical run to the school’s first state baseball tournament, Garrett Saunders kept the magic going at least through the opening night of the fall sports season Friday. Playing quarterback for the Warriors, Saunders rushed through Cardinal defenders throughout the night for big runs including a 46-yard scamper that set up one score and a 55-yard touchdown dash on the fourth play of the second half that lifted Van Buren to a 14-13 come-from-behind win over the Comets.
Saunders finished the night with 139 rushing yards, none bigger than the 55 yards he picked up on a second-and-15 with the Warriors down 13-8 at the start of the second half. The senior faked a pitch and took off past two Comet defenders and ran to the end zone to provide Van Buren with the score that would lift the team to its first opening-night win since 2009 and make a winner out of first-year head coach Mike Hurley in his varsity debut.
Tyler Albert led Cardinal with 103 rushing yards, including a 32-yard run as he wove through Van Buren defenders less than two minutes after taking a screen pass 59 yards to the end zone for the first score of the night with 9:41 left in the first half. The second touchdown by Albert put Cardinal up 13-0, but that lead lasted less than two minutes itself before Saunders’ first big run led to a 20-yard scoring run by Aaron Clemons to pull Van Buren within five.
Van Buren (1-0) next hosts West Burlington-Notre Dame while Cardinal (0-1) travels to Danville next Friday.
VAN BUREN INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS:
Passing: Garrett Saunders 4/14, 68 yards, INT
Rushing: Garrett Saunders 17/139, TD; Aaron Clemens 11/15, TD; Brandon Plecker 3/7, fumble; Jacob Heisel 2/2.
Receiving: Brandon Plecker 4/68.
Returns: Brandon Plecker 5/114.
Interceptions: Sheldon DeWitt 1-0 yards.
Fumble Recoveries: Hunter Coffman 1-0 yards.
Penalties: 5/25 yards.
Punts: Jacob Heisel 4/33.8 yards.
Passing: Nathan Yeager 1-1, 59 yards, TD; Tyler Batterson 1-11, 15 yards, INT; Brandon Potts 0-2, 0 yards.
Rushing: Tyler Albert 19/103, TD; Mike Owings 8/28; Nathan Yeager 3/6; Cole Campbell 1/-12; Tyler Batterson 4/-21.
Receiving: Tyler Albert 1/59, TD.
Returns: Quinn Honomichl 4/71, fumble; Brennon Elder 1/21; Mike Owings 1/16; Blake Wright 1/0
Fumble Recoveries: Michael Owings 1-0 yards.
Interception: Tyler Albert 1-0 yards.
Penalties: 8/55 yards
Punts: Tyler Albert 6/27.0 yards.