It is what it is, and it wasn’t pretty for Gardendale.
Fifth-ranked Vestavia Hills carved through a porous Rocket defense on a regular basis, as they handed host Gardendale a 48-7 loss Friday night.
Rebels quarterback Spencer Towns picked the opposition apart with regularity, with four touchdown passes for the night. Two of those found the hands of tailback Josh Ellington in the second quarter, during which Vestavia blew the game open with 28 points.
Towns was 9-for-12 for the night with 183 yards, including a 74-yard bomb over the middle to Oscar Harper, who was in full sprint on a post pattern.
Gardendale looked early on as if it would stay on at least fairly level terms with the Rebels, but was unable to penetrate very deep into enemy territory. Their only highlight of the night came on the first possession of the second quarter, when running back Jordan Howard — finally back in form after nursing injuries over the first three games — broke three tackles on his way to a 51-yard touchdown dash.
“Jordan is finally getting in shape, but you’ve got to play well around him,” Rockets coach Chris Fancher said.
But Vestavia dominated the game in the fashion typical of their longtime head coach, Buddy Anderson. A hard-nosed, brute-strength ground game opened up the offense for Towns to apply the kill shot through the air. Vintage Anderson, as it has been for his 35 years at the school.
The Rebs got on the board first with four minutes left in the opening quarter, as Towns capped a 76-yard march with a 15-yard pass to tight end Kyle Sitzler. It was Sitzler’s only catch of the game that counted — another TD pass late in the half was negated by a penalty for too few men on the line.
Towns’ touchdown tosses to Ellington went for seven and nine yards, respectively, with the latter one coming with just 10 seconds to play before halftime. It gave the visitors a 35-7 lead.
Tailback Jordan Johnson scored twice on the ground for Vestavia. His first score opened the second quarter on a six-yard run, and his second came on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for 40 yards, as Johnson ran behind his line and then cut quickly through a hole behind his tight end.
Anderson pulled his starters out roughly midway through the third period, but tailback Matthew Crane added another touchdown to the Rebels’ total with 8:35 left in the game.
Gardendale’s offense simply could not gain any meaningful momentum — and when it came close, a turnover would kill the drive. Quarterback Hunter Crook fumbled the ball at his own 38 in the first quarter, leading to a Vestavia score; an interception by Jeffrey Wall near the end of the third put the Rebels in business on the Rocket 40.
“We didn’t play well, we didn’t coach well — mainly we didn’t coach well, and that’s my fault,” Fancher said. “We didn’t play very well in any of the three phases, but I’m dearly disappointed that we didn’t battle better than we did in the second half.”
Howard led Gardendale with 119 yards rushing on 14 carries.
The Rockets remain winless in the region and are 1-3 overall as they travel to Briarwood Christian next week.
“We’ll go back to practice and get better,” Fancher said. “We’d better get better, or we’ll have a lot of nights like this.”
It is what it is, and it wasn’t pretty for Gardendale.
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