They'll soon be known as the Southwest Valley Timberwolves, so the Villisca Bluejays plan on creating a more positive identity in their final year together.
Those plans took a dramatic upswing on Friday night when the Bluejays held off Stanton 39-36 for their first win in the series in 21 years. It also snapped a 14-game losing streak, dating to the 2010 season.
“They wanted to win this game really badly,” Villisca coach TJ Quick said. “Walking around school today, you could still kind of feel it a little bit, the kids are still just on cloud nine.”
Villisca will enter a five-year whole-grade sharing agreement with Corning in the fall of 2013. Southwest Valley's school colors will be black, silver and teal, determined by a vote of students from both schools last spring.
Southwest Valley will become an 11-man football program, so for Villisca's underclassmen, it will be the last time they'll see most of their Corner Conference foes on the football field.
“We kind of use it as a battle cry,” Quick said. “It's our final tour.”
The tour is off to a tremendous start, after a frantic finish on Friday. Villisca led Stanton 39-20 with 6:50 remaining, but the Vikings, led by Jeff Marshall (42 carries, 289 yards, 2 TDs), pulled within 39-36 with about three minutes left.
Villisca ran four plays but then lost a fumble near midfield, giving Stanton possession with 1:44 remaining.
With time ticking away, Stanton ran a guard-eligible play. Senior defensive end Max Mauderly alertly read the play and tackled the receiver on the 4-yard line. Stanton had no more timeouts and time expired, sending the Villisca side into an uproar.
“In the five years I've been here, I've never seen those kids play with that much emotion in any athletic event,” Quick said. “And the community was excited. The fans stayed around afterward. I've never seen a football game like that at Villisca, that there's been that much excitement about it.”
Senior quarterback Damon Sunderman completed 11 of 18 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for the winners. The 6-foot-2 175-pounder also carried 14 times for 89 yards and two scores and made 15 tackles on defense. Quick said it was his best performance in his three years as a starter.
“We knew he had it,” he said. “He finally went and did it.”
Senior Jared Spunaugle caught seven passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns and added 11 tackles. The 6-3 185-pounder tore the ACL in his knee in the eighth game last season and missed all of track season.
“That was the best game I've seen him play,” Quick said.
Other tackle leaders in the game included sophomores Colten Drake (17) and Scott Vanderhoof (nine), and senior Travis Herzberg (eight). Herzberg had 49 receiving yards and a score and 35 rushing yards.
The fifth senior currently contributing is Cole Sunderman, a 5-8, 140-pound offensive guard and nose guard.
Quick has been coaching this group off seniors since eighth-grade basketball. And even though no one is making playoff reservations yet, the seniors have worked hard to make the program respectable.
“They have kind of been the driving force,” Quick said. “We've talked about taking this next step as seniors.”