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St. Teresa runs past Tri-Valley in season football opener

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DECATUR — The Downs Tri-Valley defense was bottling Jacardia Wright up.

Only two of his first 11 carries went for more than 10 yards — he couldn't break free.

Then trailing by one point with 51 seconds in the first half, Wright took the ball from St. Teresa quarterback Jack Hogan and exploded through the hole.

Tri-Valley's Hunter Gawlik got a hand on Wright and teetered him off balance, but Wright didn't relent. He regained balance and got into the open field, juked past Zach Woodring and had green grass in front of him. 

Jake Reeser was the Vikings' last hope to stop Wright from hitting the end zone, but Wright spun past him to complete a 62-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 13-7 lead with 51 seconds left in the first half.

The run was the catalyst for St. Teresa on the way to a 27-14 season-opening non-conference win against Tri-Valley.

“I did not expect that touchdown at all," Wright said. "I was running and moving my feet and it came.

“I hit the hole. After that, I saw the dude and I knew I was going to shake him off. After that, I didn’t know what was going to happen, honestly."

Wright finished with 161 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

The Bulldogs' offense started slow. Penalties negated a pair of big runs by Hogan on the first drive and Hogan fumbled the ball on the Tri-Valley 14-yard line on the second drive.

“The game’s always about adversity and how you respond," St. Teresa coach Mark Ramsey said. "It seems like Jacardia, whenever we have a little adversity, he seems to make the big play in the very next series."

Hogan opened the scoring for St. Teresa, faking a handoff to Wright, who came from the receiver spot, and threw a pass over the top to receiver Tyler Phillips for a 24-yard strike with 7:58 left in the second quarter.

As soon as the ball left Hogan's hands, he knew he had a touchdown.

“Everyone just keyed on (Wright) and I was looking for one of my main guys from last year, Tyler Phillips, and I trusted him enough to get past him and get wide open," Hogan said.

Hogan was 8 of 12 for 110 yards and a touchdown.

The Bulldogs opened the second half with a four-play, 49-yard drive that was capped off with a 20-yard touchdown run from Hogan.

“It was a big play to start the second half when they went down and scored to put us down two touchdowns," Tri-Valley coach Josh Roop said.

Hogan added another scoring run with 5:41 left in the game to seal the win, finishing off a 13-play, five-minute, three-second drive with a 1-yard QB keeper. He rushed 15 times for 71 yards.

"This is a huge win for us," Wright said. "We had so many doubters for this season, on our line, they say they’re young. Honestly, this game showed that it’s more than just me out here. We can use our whole entire team. That’s what I like about this team."

Hogan delivered key pass after key pass. 

He completed a 22-yard pass to Stanley Rodgers on the opening drive of the second half, then found Rodgers again on 4th-and-four late in the fourth quarter for another 11 yards.

Hogan wasn't the same player who was 4-of-17 for 54 yards in last season's opening game, which was Hogan's varsity debut.

“I had a year under my belt," Hogan said of the difference a year makes. "It’s all about confidence. If you’re not prepared and you’re playing scared, you’re going to not play well. We played with confidence. We have a great line, great receivers, it’s all fun and makes it easier."

Freshman defensive lineman Denim Cook stopped the Vikings in their tracks to end the first half.

Cook, a 5-foot-7, 193-pounder, came off the edge and walloped Reeser, the Vikings' quarterback, to force a fumble that was scooped up by defensive lineman Dominico Sassano.

Sassano and Cook were anchors on a young defensive line that bent during sustained Vikings possessions, but refused to break.

Connor Kernaghan and Conor Reynolds made up the rest of the front.

The Vikings' Wing-T offense strung together long drives of five, five, seven, 12 and 19 plays.

“Everybody is a captain on our defense," Wright said. "That’s our motto this year: Everybody has to be a captain and everybody has to talk. We stuck to our keys. That was a great offense they had. We had to make our stops and stick to our keys."

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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