The Vernon Lions ran 31 more plays than the Gainesville Leopards and it might seem as if that was an advantage they had in each team’s season-opening matchup Friday, Aug. 30, at Leopard Stadium.
But it was only because the Leopards were so dynamic on offense, using big play after big play to trounce the Lions 55-21.
Gainesville had four touchdowns go for 50-or-more yards, including their 92-yard kickoff return by senior Izaiah Baker.
Junior CJ Feagins had had two long touchdowns. First, his 58-yard touchdown run gave the Leopards the 14-7 lead with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
Then, his 52-yard touchdown run pushed Gainesville’s lead to 41-17.
Baker later added a 57-yard touchdown reception.
Feagan finished with 119 yards rushing on just four carries while Baker had 59 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving.
In his first game as a starting quarterback, senior Traylen Shinault totaled five touchdowns — three on the ground and two through the air.
Shinault was 5-of-9 for 93 yards passing with 35 yards rushing on just three touches.
Gainesville head coach James Polk said Shinault has a good understanding of the offense.
“He is one of the smartest kids on the team,” Polk said. “He knows what everybody’s doing where they’re supposed to go. He should be a starter for us on defense, but he happens to be our quarterback and that’s the reason not. He’s really worked hard. You know, he has some big shoes to fill with Draylon Franklin graduating. [Shinault] sat back, learned and listened and did what he’s supposed to do.”
Junior linebacker Mason Ford led the Leopards on defense with eight total tackles, including one for a loss.
Baker also had six tackles while Feagins, senior Ethan Butler and junior Dwayne Wilson added four tackles each.
Polk said he was proud of how the defense played, especially after giving up the first touchdown of the game on a lengthy drive by the Tigers.
“I tell them all the time that we have a good idea of what the other team wants to do, but those guys get coached too,” Polk said. “They’re not going to show everything in a scrimmage. They’re going to come out and do something that we haven’t prepared for because we haven’t seen it. But if you stick to your rules, it doesn’t matter how they line up. We have an opportunity be successful. Once we got them back to the sideline and settled them down and made them realize that it doesn’t matter how Vernon lines up.”