SHELBYVILLE Beech used a dominant ground game paced by the duo of Alex Vanzant and Chaz Williamson, who accounted for 384 of the Buccaneers’ 420 yards in a 44-30 win over Shelbyville Central High School in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
The win moves Beech (8-3) into a matchup against regular season 6-5A champions Cane Ridge, who survived a scare from Summit to hold on for a 35-21 victory.
Three things from the Buccaneers’ victory:
Vanzant had a monster game for the Buccaneers, and his longest run of the night came at the most crucial time for Beech.
Vanzant ripped through the Shelbyville defense for 237 yards on 24 carries, and three scores. However, after Shelbyville (8-3) closed the gap from 24-0 at halftime to 24-17 with just under a minute in the third quarter, it was Vanzant to the rescue.
On the first play following a Shelbyville field goal from Noah Mason that trimmed to lead to just a touchdown, Vanzant took the ensuing play around the left end for a 74-yard touchdown.
Shelbyville never closed to within two scores after the Vanzant touchdown run.
“That was a big play when we needed it,” Beech coach Anthony Crabtree said. “Our line blocked it well, and it was a big momentum turner for us.”
Said Vanzant, “I looked up and saw green grass, and I needed to break one tackle, and I got him off me. It was a great feeling.”
Chaz Williamson added 147 yards on the ground on 18 carries and a first-quarter touchdown.
Onside on point:
Shelbyville running back Jamal Harden scored from six yards out for the Eagles first score. The Harden touchdown closed the gap to 24-6 with 5:20 left in the third.
Shelbyville then went with an onside kick that was recovered and led to a Michael Salisbury six-yard score to trim the lead to 24-14. Following the Salisbury score, the Eagles attempted another which was successfully recovered and led to a Noah Mason 23-yard field goal before Vanzant’s run.
“We had trouble coming out and recovering those kicks, and we didn’t come out like we should in the second half,” Beech receiver/defensive back Michael Iacob said. “We managed to get going, and Alex (Vanzant), Chaz (Williamson) and the rest of the guys up front got it done.”
A small measure of revenge:
The playoff meeting between Beech and Shelbyville was a rematch of a second-round playoff matchup in 2014 that saw the Buccaneers squander a fourth quarter lead to eventually drop a 42-41, double-overtime loss.
This matchup had some tense moments, thanks to a 17-point third quarter from Shelbyville, but Beech managed to hold the ball with its run game to stave off Shelbyville.
Beech jumped out to a 24-0 lead, thanks to first-half touchdown runs from Vanzant and Williams, followed by a 38-yard scoring strike from Nelson Smith to Iacob.