ELDON — He didn’t dash through Cardinal Comet defenders as easily as Dennis Halverson did five years ago. He also didn’t put up the same gaudy numbers Halverson did on that same field in that same uniform back in 2008.
No, Van Buren junior Garrett Sanders didn’t have the same kind of jaw-dropping night on Friday that Halverson, a Van Buren senior in 2008, did when he led the Warriors to a season-opening 54-0 triumph over Cardinal. From the opening kickoff, which he returned 90 yards for one of his four touchdowns, to any of the seven runs he made from scrimmage for another 166 yards Halverson owned that night in a way few players can with 331 total yards of rushing, receiving and returning offense.
That night, however, was the last time Van Buren walked off the field after opening a football season with a victory. Unlike Saunders, Halverson didn’t have to go through the virtual rebuilding of the entire Warrior team that included sitting out a whole season just two years after that incredible 2008 opener.
So on Friday, after gaining 226 total yards of his own including 52 yards on a touchdown run that proved to be the difference, Saunders finally helped Van Buren finally win its football opener since that 2008 campaign. The 14-13 triumph Friday left Saunders, and the rest of his Warrior teammates, feeling a very unique sense of pride.
Pride that, for at least one night, Van Buren fans could celebrate like it was 2008 all over again.
“There’s not a lot left to say after a game like that. It was probably the most motivational game any of us will ever play in,” Saunders said. “We showed 100 percent effort no matter who was out on the field. We might not be the most talented or have the most numbers, but we’re going to play our hearts out every play.”