Interceptions lift VCC

by Tom Coombe

Behind a surprisingly strong running game and an opportunistic defense, the Vermilion Ironmen opened the 2004 season with a 21-6 home win over Fergus Falls.<BR><BR>Sophomore back Keena Turner was the workhorse, running 34 times for 185 yards and sparking a VCC rushing attack that amassed nearly 300 yards.<BR><BR>But the Sept. 6 contest turned on three key plays, all made by the Vermilion defense.<BR><BR>In the first half, the visiting Spartans blew a chance to take the lead by fumbling near the goal line, with VCC’s David McCall pouncing on the loose ball.<BR><BR>Vermilion took a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter when defensive end Heath Severson picked off an errant screen pass and ran it back 40 yards for a touchdown.<BR><BR>And with Fergus Falls threatening late in the game, defensive back Kenneth King’s interception at the goal line - his second pick of the contest - sealed the victory.<BR><BR>It was a turnover-filled contest, with six by Fergus Falls and four by the victorious Ironmen.<BR><BR>That’s one area where Vermilion will need to improve, according to head coach Keith Turner.<BR><BR>“Overall, I’d have to grade us out at a C-plus,” said Turner. “We had some turnovers and a few mental mistakes defensively, but I think we’re going in the right direction and going toward that A.”<BR><BR>It looked early on that the game - played before a crowd of about 250 at Ely School Stadium on a warm Labor Day weekend afternoon - would be a shootout.<BR><BR>Fergus Falls struck quickly, with Kadafi Tunsil returning the opening kick 40 yards into VCC territory, setting up a long pass from Kurtis Eldon to Chris Ohren that put the Spartans up 6-0.<BR><BR>The visitors missed the extra point and Vermilion answered immediately after getting the ball.<BR><BR>Sophomore quarterback Lenny Serfling found receiver Irvin Bethea down the right sideline for a 55-yard scoring strike. Kicker Robert Karr added the extra-point for a 7-6 VCC lead.<BR><BR>Keena Turner capped off a scoring drive with a short touchdown plunge in the second quarter, and the Ironmen led 14-6 at the half.<BR><BR>Neither team would mount a drive in the second half, although both teams threatened.<BR><BR>Both teams had costly turnovers, while Fergus Falls was unable to get its ground game going against the Vermilion defense.<BR><BR>The Spartans had 183 yards through the air, but minus-7 yards rushing.<BR><BR>Tunsil, who had three interceptions, did all he could to keep Fergus Falls in the game.<BR><BR>With six minutes to go, he returned his third pick to the VCC five, stepping out of bounds just before an acrobatic leap into the end zone.<BR><BR>Fergus Falls wouldn’t score, thanks to King’s interception.<BR><BR>Otis Greenlaw also had an interception for Vermilion, and the Ironmen also recovered a fumbled punt.<BR><BR>The Spartans fell to 0-2 for the season.<BR><BR>Vermilion took on Rochester over the weekend and returns home this Saturday to face Ridgewater (1:30 p.m.).<BR><BR>