Back like they never left were the Simmons Blue Devils (1-0) who, in their regular season debut, handed their hosting opponent — the Leland Cubs (0-2) — its second shutout in a row by winning 50-0.
The Blue Devils’ offense got off to a hot start in their first series which ended with a 15 yard touchdown from senior running back Vontrez Rush, followed by a successful two-point conversion.
Vontrez racked up three rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in which he ran for 15 yards after the catch.
Midway through the second quarter, hIs brother, junior quarterback Devontae Rush, completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Chartavian Bethany.
The Simmons Blue Devils’ ability to score quickly and easily correlates directly with its less than generous, hard hitting defense, as well as with Leland’s struggles on special teams.
In Leland’s last possession of the first quarter, a huge tackle for a loss of three yards by senior defensive lineman Tymon Wells was yet another factor in the Cubs’ lack of momentum offensively.
Simmons’ defensive line let little get by them, disallowed fourth down conversions and gave its offense more than one leg to stand on when it came to field position.
The Blue Devils weren’t devoid of mistakes, though.
In their second half opening drive down the field, the Blue Devils were penalized for holding, followed by a false start.
Penalties aside, Devontae nipped those offensive setbacks in the bud with a 45-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper, making the score 42-0.
The Blue Devils’ last touchdown of the night would be added by freshman QB2, Eddie George who rushed the ball five yards into the endzone.
Simmons’ head coach Tavares Johnson Sr. said while he liked the fact his team scored 50 points, he’d still like to see more intensity and for them to finish drives late in the game, even when they’re up.
“I want to see them develop more of a killer instinct,” he said.
Apart from developing that killer instinct, is the players’ durability, which comes with consistent conditioning.
One thing Simmons’ did not have was a significant number of players to suffer cramps, which could be expected during this time of the year.
“One of our focuses in the off season was to make sure that we maintain our conditioning so that’s something we worked on everyday and that’s something we continue to work on,” Johnson said. “With the heat, and then add in the elements of COVID and restrictions, it makes it tough so that’s why we take a holistic approach when it comes down to our players in regard to not only their hydration, but their nutrition as well and we try to incorporate all of that.”
Johnson noted for the most part, his players have responded well to that approach.
“One cramp out of 36 kids, I'll take it,” he said jokingly.
Johnson also highlighted the importance of having a leadership presence on the team.
“We’ve got seniors like Tymon Wells, he’s been around for awhile and Darik Bolton has been around and these kids understand and know exactly what it takes to win, so, we just rely on those guys to be the leaders on the field and off the field,” he said, adding, “but what we teach is that you’ve got to lead by example and they’ve been doing a good job of that so just want to make sure that we keep the momentum going.”