LEXINGTON — Lexington fan Dave Kuhn proudly wore his yellow “Joey Football” T-shirt on Friday night.
“It’s a limited edition,” he said, laughing.
Well, somebody needs to print more. In a surprising quarterback battle, it was Joey Vore who stole the show.
The surprise wasn’t that the senior field general played well for unbeaten Lexington. He scored two touchdowns and kicked two field goals and three PATs, accounting for 21 points in the 27-7 Ohio Cardinal Conference victory over Clear Fork.
Vore finished with 69 yards on 19 carries and was 8 of 10 passing for 69 yards as Lex improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC. The Minutemen finished with a 317-86 edge in total yardage, expanding a 14-7 halftime lead and chewing up valuable time behind the running of Hunter Biddle (161 yards and one TD on 16 carries).
“He’s a lot stronger than you think,” coach Taylor Gerhardt said of Biddle. “He was relentless.”
That 18-game losing streak to begin the season looks like ancient Lex history.
“It’s just sticking with it,” Vore said of the turnaround. “It’s the same core guys, but we’re a year older. Everybody bought in. Coach (Dan) Studer did a great job with the off-season conditioning program. We’re bigger, faster and stronger. It’s the second year (under coach Taylor Gerhardt) and we’re doing the same stuff. We found an identity and we’ve stuck with it.”
What probably caught fans off-guard was sophomore running back Thomas Staab getting the start behind center for Clear Fork as the Colts looked for a spark after losing their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener 30-0 at Mansfield Senior last week.
Sophomore backup Daniel Spencer was the announced starter for Clear Fork, but it was Staab who got the call from the get-go. Having the Colts’ most exciting and maybe quickest player touching the ball on every down has to be a scary proposition for rival OCC schools.
It was a rocky debut for the talented Staab. He threw an errant pitch and three interceptions and Lex converted on three of those turnovers to drop the Colts to 2-3, 0-2 at the season’s midpoint.
“We heard some things (about Staab making the switch),,” said Vore, who played some cornerback. “We prepared for a lot of empty with him back there. The coaches did a great job putting together the gameplan and the guys did a great job of executing it.”
Staab’s option pitch on the game’s opening series bounced off Trevon Trammel with Lex linebacker T.J. Gerhardt recovering at the Clear Fork 33.
A 14-yard pass from Vore to A.J. Nickoli moved the ball into the red zone and then Vore capped the series by scoring on an 18-yard keeper.
“We always talk about throwing the first punch,” Vore said. “It’s like a fight. We want to make the first splash. That fumble and our score puts us in command and we finished the fight.”
It was Vore again finding the end zone with his feet in the second quarter, this time from 14 yards out. Highlights of the drive included a 23-yard run by Biddle and a 20-yard gain by Tony Gerrell after his 18-yard reception on the previous play was negated by a holding call.
Staab settled down and let his athleticism and speed take over. He scrambled 24 yards on a broken play that got the Colts out to midfield. That run didn’t generate any points but just before halftime Staab floated a 24-yard scoring pass to a wide open Matt Thran to cut Lex’s lead to 14-7 at the half.
The Minutemen put together a 10-play drive to open the second half, and while it didn’t net any points it did eat nearly six minutes off the clock and pinned Clear Fork inside its own 10.
On the ensuing series, Gerrell made an over-the-shoulder interception of a Staab pass, giving the ball back to Lex at the Clear Fork 40. This time the Minutemen capitalized. A holding call wiped out a 19-yard TD run by Vore, but those three minutes he spent at the end of the half practicing field goals paid off when he booted a 32-yarder. That kick padded Lex’s lead to 10 after three.
Another interception, by Gerrell’s secondary mate Cory Swartzmiller, led to a 29-yard field goal by Vore in the fourth quarter, putting an exclamation point on his do-everything evening.In between field goals, Biddle stretched the ball across the goal line on a five-yard scoring run that capped an 11-play, 68-yard drive.
“We heard rumors (about Staab moving to QB), but we focus on what we do,” Gerhardt said. “We never looked at it (as Vore vs. Staab), but we ask a lot of Joey as a senior leader, cornerback and kicker. We put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and he doesn’t flinch.”
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