La Vergne and Ray Banner spoiled Rockvale’s home season opener on Thursday night as the senior running back rushed for five touchdowns in a 49-35 victory.
“(Banner) played the way we needed him to play, and the front five did a great job of giving him space,” La Vergne first-year coach Mike Woodward said. “There were also some situations where (Banner) was just better and refused to go down in the second half.”
Banner scored on three consecutive drives in the first half, amassing over 120 yards. The Wolverines’ passing game spread out the Rockets’ defense in the second half for Banner to slam the door shut with two more fourth-quarter touchdowns of 35-plus yards and capping a 260-yard night.
“All (Banner) needs is a little crease and he is tough to bring down,” Rockvale coach Rick Rice said. “(La Vergne's) offensive line did a good job on us, but we are not clicking on the defensive side of the ball and that is something that needs to be, and will be, fixed.”
A small crowd of about 800 cheered on a much-improved Rockvale offense that matched La Vergne’s initial efficiency, scoring on their first four possessions. Junior quarterback Logan Nowacki threw three first-half touchdowns, two to CJ Steele and another to Branic Swain.
“(Nowacki) has gotten better with his leadership skills and gave us a chance to win with some good balls,” Rice said. “I am just frustrated because this was game I thought we should have won. Our offensive line dominated for most of the night. (La Vergne ) just made more plays than we did."
Nowacki completed 17 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Cole Geeting led the Rockets with three receptions for 56 yards.
Wolverine quarterback Dre Webb had great success through the air, completing 11 of 17 for 186 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns. Webb’s first score came on a recovered blocked field goal that was returned 15 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 7:09 left in third quarter.
“We struggled running the ball in the second half, but Dre made some nice plays for us keeping the ball alive,” Woodward said. “If teams key on Ray I know that Dre will go out and make a play for us when we need it.”
Landon Starnes gave Rockvale a 35-28 lead with his second rushing touchdown at 10:33 of the fourth quarter. Starnes carried for 170 yards after starting running back Lamarcus Nelson left with an early injury.
Webb completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to he Ali Zeebaree to tie the game at 35-35 with nine minutes to play. Eric Gooch intercepted a Rockvale pass on the ensuing possession, setting up Banner's fourth touchdown to come 30 seconds later. Banner’s final touchdown came from 38 yards away with 90 seconds left to play to seal Woodward’s first win as the Wolverines head coach.
“It feels great,” Woodward said. “1-0 feels a lot better than 0-1."