LITTLE ROCK — Vilonia coach Jim Stanley saw a different team at the end of August than he saw in June.
The Eagles scored on five of their first six possessions and two of Sylvan Hills’ to power to a 45-14 victory Tuesday night over the Bears in the season opener in the First Security Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium.
The Eagles amassed 285 total yards and Sylvan Hills, which had only eight first downs, gained 112 of its 213 yards on two long touchdown runs, as Class 5A Vilonia totally dominated the 6A team for the second straight year.
"If you saw us in June when we went to the OBU camp ... Oh my goodness," said Vilonia Jim Stanley. "We didn’t look very good. We have come a long way. We worked hard over the summer to improve. And we kept getting better and better. We stepped up our intensity because I was disappointed with how we played in the playoffs last year. I’m so proud of the kids because they’ve worked so hard to get better."
Drew Estes, Vilonia’s sophomore fullback who was named the game’s MVP, rushed for 76 yards on eight carries and scored twice in his first varsity action. James Sax, the Eagles’ marquee back, added 92 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown.
Vilonia didn’t have turnover and had only three penalties for 20 yards.
"I told the team that we had to be smart and play solid football and not beat ourselves," Stanley said. "For a the first game, we executed very well. That started last week in our scrimmage against Marion, and we kept it up."
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to kick into high gear, both offensively and defensively, taking advantage of great field position the entire first half, and provided significant fuel by major breakdowns in the Sylvan Hills’ kicking game.
After John Miller bobbled a snap on a punt on the Bears’ first possession, the improvised rugby kick traveled only 15 yards and set the Eagles up on the Sylvan Hills 41. They scored in five plays with Estes getting the final 21 on a sweep on his first carry as a varsity player.
About five minutes later, Jake Kirk found an open sideline after a deflected pass for an gimme 39-yard touchdown that gave Vilonia a 14-0 lead.
After a shanked 18-yard punt by Miller, the Eagles drove 49 yards in six play with Estes again scoring on a 21-yard scamper, this time off tackled. About the only glitch for Vilonia the entire half was when James Gardner’s extra point was blocked.
After a 7-yard punt, the Eagles drove 23 yards in three plays with Sax getting the final 6.
Shortly after Trey Bone broke for a 67-yard touchdown run by Sylvan Hills, Houston Cotton capped an 67-yard, seven play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
About two seconds later, David Jauch picked off another deflected pass and had clear sailing to the end zone on a 21-yard jaunt, and, with the two-point conversion by Sax, the Eagles invoked the mercy rule for the second half with a 42-7 lead.
When Vilonia’s first drive of the second half stalled short of the end zone, Gardner nailed a 39-yard field goal.
During mop-up time, the Bears’ Xavier Amos broke for a 55-yard touchdown run with 3:08 left.
"Our defense played great; Sylvan Hills is so fast and so big," Stanley said. "Coach (Bill) Buckner and our defensive coaches had them ready to go."
Eleven backs got into action for the Eagles for 44 carries for a net of 276 yards. Vilonia attempted only one pass.
The Eagles get a break before playing at Beebe on Sept. 10.