Keydets Dominate Mars Hill in Home Football Opener

football players mid-game

Kaleb Tucker ’20 during the home football opener against Mars Hill. Photo by Chuck Steenburgh ’86.

Looking for a great start to the 2019 home season, the VMI football team took care of business with an impressive 63-21 victory over Mars Hill Sept. 7, 2019, on a warm afternoon at Foster Stadium.

The Keydets (1-1, 0-0) raced to a 21-0 lead in the opening quarter and appeared to be in complete control of the game from the get-go. Javeon Lara ’20 caught a 26-yard touchdown reception from Reece Udinski ’21 on VMI’s opening drive before running back Alex Ramsey ’20 scored his first VMI career touchdown on an 8-yard scamper on the following Keydet possession to put VMI up, 14-0. Minutes later, true freshman Leroy Thomas ’23 scored on a seven-yard pass from Udinski to put VMI up 21-0 before the end of the quarter had expired.

“There were three keys in winning this game,” said Scott Wachenheim, VMI head coach. “One, we got off to a fast start in the first and second half. The second was that we won the turnover battle (5-1) and third, the defense, other than one play, basically shut Mars Hill out in the second half.”

Mars Hill responded quickly in the second quarter with touchdown passes on their opening drives as quarterback Jimmy Urzua connected with Javon Harbison and Craig Rucker to cut the VMI lead to 21-14 with 10:31 to play before the half.

VMI would slow the rally – and ultimately the momentum – of the game as VMI marched down the field on the ensuing possession and Udinski spotted sophomore receiver Jakob Herres ’22 behind the Lion secondary. Midway through the second quarter Herres took it in, bringing the score to 28-14 and putting VMI on top for good.

“One really good thing about this game is that we got to play a lot of players. Our young guys played hard and played fast and enjoyed playing football and I know enjoyed the win,” said Wachenheim. “We came out in the second half and played like champs and put the game out of reach midway through the third quarter.”

The Keydets scored on three separate possessions in the third quarter to secure victory as Ramsey, Lara and Max Brimigion ’23 all recorded touchdowns to put VMI up, 50-14, heading into the fourth quarter. Ramsey earned a career-high 95 reception yards in the game, including the longest of his career with a 41-yard reception in the third quarter. He ended the game with a career-high 183 all-purpose yards.

With only one defensive mishap late in the game that allowed Mars Hill to score with three minutes to play, the Keydets played reserves and still recorded two touchdowns as freshman quarterback Seth Morgan ’23 scored his second touchdown of the season, and Chima Kpaduwa ’21 scored on a 75-yard run up the middle.

Defensively, Kaleb Tucker ’20 and A.J. Smith ’21 both recorded two interceptions in the game, career highs for a single game.

The Keydets begin Southern Conference play next week on the road as they travel to ETSU to take on the Bucs Sept. 14, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published at www.vmikeydets.com.

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