The 2017 football season for the Gillespie High School football team under the new leadership of Jake Bilbruck got underway on Friday night in Gillespie, but it wasn’t a fun one for the Miners as they fell to Vandalia in their season opener 20-49.
This year’s season could be a tough process for Gillespie (0-1) as they attempt to bounce back from a 3-6 record from last year with an extremely young team. With only one returning starter on offense and defense, the team will be relying on senior lineman and linebacker Trae Hall and junior lineman Foli Seferi.
The Miners got to see their starting point for the season against a tough Vandalia squad who set the tone early by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the first five seconds of play. The Vandals would score two more times in the first quarter to lead 20-0 after the first 12 minutes of play.
Gillespie’s Dominic Maykopet cut the deficit to 20-7 early in the second quarter with a 9-yard touchdown following a 40-yard run that got the team into the red zone. Maykopet led the team in yardage with 81 yards on eight carries.
Following the Miners’ first touchdown of the season, Vandalia scored 29 unanswered points before halftime including a kickoff return, a 66-yard pass, an 81-yard run and a 5-yard touchdown run to secure a running clock in the second half and a 7-49 halftime score.
With the running clock in the second half, 24 minutes quickly rolled off the clock but Gillespie was able to mount a small comeback with Joey Carter scoring one touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters. Following a fumble recovery, Carter connected with Devin Stroh in the end of the third quarter to bring the score up to 14-49 and then a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to end the game at 20-49.
Carter completed eight of 11 attempted passes for 81 yards.
The first three games for the Miners will give them a good eye on their strengths and weaknesses after being matched up with the anticipated top three teams in the conference. A South Central Conference coaches’ poll published in the State Journal Register expected Vandalia to be the strongest proponent in the conference followed by Carlinville and then Pana.
Gillespie is scheduled to travel to Carlinville (1-0) on Friday, September 1 and then host Pana on September 8. All games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.