Facing a struggling Van Horn team which had very limited varsity experience, Truman head coach Gregg Webb decided it was time to go back to basics.
His Patriots worked on snapping the ball without fumbling, making solid tackles, handing the ball off to running backs correctly and reducing turnovers. They did all those things well and scored more than 70 points for the first time in school history as they rolled to a 75-13 homecoming win over the Falcons Friday.
Truman rushed for 549 yards, forced seven turnovers and scored on its first eight possessions. The varsity offense only failed to score on one drive and that’s when it got the ball back with 33 seconds left in the first half.
“We really took this as a back to fundamentals week,” said Webb, whose team improved to 2-3 overall. “We just make so many silly mistakes and we did tonight, too. The penalties we had today have killed us all year and would have this game also if it wasn’t such a lopsided affair as far as talent goes.
“We changed some things and went back to a Week 1 thing. We just worked on the basics like handoffs. We wanted our kids to go out there and be able to make adjustments as the game was occurring. In some games, we haven’t been able to do that because our football IQ isn’t very good.”
Added Patriots fullback Juan Flores: “This was just a good opportunity to work on our basic plays – trap, keep, sweep – so it’s good to get back to the basics and work hard.”
Preparing the way they did this week helped Truman prepare for next week’s opponent, St. Joseph Central, which Truman quarterback Aaron Lehman said runs similar plays to Van Horn.
“They both kind of run the same thing so we were able to prepare for both teams,” said Lehman, who rushed 12 times for 182 yards and three scores. “Once we got up by a lot we just kind of acted like it was a practice. We tried not to get into any scrums or anything like that.”
Truman was just bigger, more physical and stronger in the trenches than the Falcons as four players ran for more than 50 yards.
“I grew up with these guys and we were kind of undersized in the past,” Lehman said. “Now that we have these seniors on the line, it’s great. I have never had anything like it. We have some big ol’ blockers.”
And those lineman opened up holes for Flores, who had seven carries for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
And fellow ball carriers Dave Rivera and Nik Tanner, who hadn’t gotten many carries in previous games, got some valuable experience Friday as they combined for 164 yards rushing and two scores.
“We have some backs we like to give it to and I kind of wanted to feature little No. 22, Dave Rivera,” Webb said. “He didn’t get as many touches as I was hoping because we scored on some other plays and it got kind of out of hand. We have some kids who can carry it but we just have trouble holding onto the ball.
“He hadn’t had a lot of touches coming into the game, but he’s got a little bit of ability. He’s a strong kid. I wanted to see what he could do if we stuck him back there.”
To get other players experience and just to give a boost to his squad’s confidence was something Webb said was much needed heading into a matchup with a tough Suburban Big Six conference opponent next week.
“Well, it’s good for the kids to have some confidence and to feel good about themselves,” Webb said. “We put in so much work and they haven’t been rewarded with wins and losses. This team could be a good team. And hopefully this propels us into being a good team.”
On the flip side, the Van Horn defense struggled mightily, but head coach William Harris was able to hang his hat on the performance of running back Devontae Telar, who ran for 136 yards.
“I said at the beginning of the year he was going to be special,” Harris said. “He’s lived up to the expectations. He’s done some other things besides getting the yards. It’s not a surprise when he does what he does.”
For the first-year coach it will be back to the drawing board as he has the task of keeping the morale of his team up after a lopsided defeat.
“I give them the same message win or lose,” said Harris, whose team fell to 1-4. “If we won by 76 points, I would tell them it’s over. We have to get ready for the next week. Lucky for us we get to forget about this one and prepare for our next opponent.”