It’s usually not good news for an offense when its quarterback is being constantly pressured by the opponent’s defensive line.
Well, unless a team has a quarterback like Van Horn’s Shaun Ross.
The Butler defensive line was pressuring Ross early and often in the first half of Saturday’s game, but the senior signal caller kept finding ways to escape trouble. He put on a show, passing for 58 yards and two scores and rushing for 123 yards and two more touchdowns on seven carries in the Falcons’ 48-6 blowout of the Crossroads Conference foe at Independence All-School Stadium.
“He has some escape ability, but it’s kind of a gift and a curse,” Van Horn head football coach William Harris said. “I told him that he tries to do too much sometimes and tires himself out. He’s got to find some people open down field sometimes. He’s a kid, when he gets outside the pocket, it’s trouble for other high school football teams.”
Before the season, Harris said that the success of the offense depended a lot on what Ross could do. He showed he could do a little bit of everything against Butler.
His first passing touchdown came when he was flushed out of the pocket while being chased by two Butler lineman. He found enough room on the left side of the field to set his feet and find streaking junior wide receiver Drevion Downton for a 36-yard score on a fly route to make it 7-0 at the 8:08 mark in the first period.
Two possessions later, Ross was pressured again in the Butler red zone. The junior just used his speed to escape and he ran to his right and got the edge for a 15-yard scoring run, making it 13-0 early in the second quarter.
“That’s just something I have been working on my whole life,” Ross said of escaping the pocket and evading would-be tacklers. “It just happens. It’s natural instinct.”
With 6:51 left in the second quarter, Ross made his most impressive play of the day. He scored on a 51-yard run while juking two defenders and stiff-arming another to give his team an insurmountable 34-0 edge.
His last score came when he had a clean pocket. He hit senior wide receiver Isaac Fue-King over the middle on a 22-yard pass to make it 40-0 with 1:10 remaining before halftime.
Ross had some help from the rest of his offense, the defense and Downton, too. Downton scored on a 28-yard punt return in the second when he scooped the football after one bounce and ran it in untouched.
“He didn’t play football last year, but he catches the football and everything he does is natural.” Harris said of Downton.
Added Downton: “When I picked it up, all I was thinking was, ‘Go score.’”
Falcons junior linebacker Zante Byrd recovered a fumble at the Bears’ 4-yard line following a botched pitch. Two plays later, Tavious Brown scored on a 3-yard run midway through the second.
The Falcons’ final touchdown came with 2:44 left in the third when the Van Horn offensive line opened up a big hole for junior running back Davontae Telar and he scampered 54 yards for the score. Senior wide receiver Paul Hemingway ran it in for the two-point conversion on a fake extra point try.
On defense, the Falcons (2-0) were just as dominant. With the exception of a 60-yard touchdown run by Butler’s Zack Wicks early in the third, Van Horn shut down the Bears’ running game, holding them to just 67 yards on the ground and 97 yards total. The Van Horn defense also had three sacks, an interception, two fumble recoveries and seven tackles for loss.
“We have some guys up front, so we kind of expected that,” Harris said. “They played well and played up to expectations.”
Added Ross: “(The defense) was stout. They were legit. That’s the way they are going to play all season.”
And it’s not just the defense that’s legit, Ross said. He said the entire team has a chance to do something special this year.
“This is the year Van Horn is really going to turn it up and be known,” Ross said. “We’re 2-0 and we’re looking to extend it to 3-0 (against Bishop Ward). We love each other and we have great chemistry. This year we’re actually a family.”