Tyler Vanderzee threw for 235 yards and Titus Mobley ran for 122 yards to lead the East Central Tigers to a 31-16 Great American Conference football victory over the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-3 overall, 4-2 GAC) kept Arkansas Tech out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter and used big plays on offense and special teams to build an insurmountable lead.
East Central put together a six-play, 76-yard scoring drive on the first possession of the game. Vanderzee threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to George Robbins and the Tigers led 7-0 with 11:53 to go in the opening quarter.
Arkansas Tech got on the board with a 22-yard field goal by Jorge Vazquez with 2:29 left in the second quarter, but ECU's Dontae Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown. The Tigers held a 14-3 edge at halftime.
Vazquez's second field goal of the day --- a 28-yard boot at the 5:39 mark of the third quarter --- cut the Wonder Boys' deficit to 14-6.
East Central responded with another big play. Vanderzee hit Robbins for a 55-yard pass play, and Mobley took it over the goal line on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later. ECU led 21-6 with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Vazquez continued his career day by making a 35-yard field goal in the last minute of the third period. It was 21-9 going to the final 15 minutes.
The Tigers put it away with one final big play. Vanderzee tossed a screen pass to Mobley on a fourth-and-8 play with 6:47 remaining, and Mobley scooted 35 yards down the left side of the field for a touchdown. Vanderzee's second touchdown pass of the game gave the Tigers a 28-9 edge.
ECU's Brian Gonzalez increased the lead to 31-9 with a 24-yard field goal at the 3:26 mark of the fourth quarter.
A.J. Whitmore restored an ounce of hope for the Wonder Boys by returning the ensuing kickoff 66 yards for a touchdown. His third kickoff return for a touchdown of the season brought Arkansas Tech within 31-16 with 3:17 to go.
But the hole was too deep and time was too short for the Wonder Boys. Austin Daniels drove the final nail when he intercepted an Arkansas Tech pass at the ECU 18-yard line with 40 seconds remaining.
James Landry completed 16-of-29 passes for 146 yards for the Wonder Boys. He also rushed for 35 yards.
Chris Strong led the Arkansas Tech defense with seven tackles. Hayward Howard made six tackles, including three for a loss.
Saturday marked the final home game of the season for the Wonder Boys (2-7, 1-3).
Arkansas Tech honored its 19 senior football players --- defensive linemen Hayward Howard, Kelby Parks, Garret Ratcliff, A.J. Smith and Marvin Wilcots; linebacker Brandon Keaton; defensive backs Joe Bryant, Myron Johnson, Joe Means and Kenneth Snell; place kicker Jorge Vazquez; offensive linemen Brandon Thomas and Marcus Turner; quarterback James Landry; running back Darnell O’Neal; tight end Josh Baker; tight end/punter Jake Denzer; and wide receivers Sean Carraway and A.J. Whitmore --- during a pre-game ceremony.
The Wonder Boys will play their final game of the 2011 football season on Saturday, Nov. 5, when they visit Southwestern Oklahoma State for a 2 p.m. kickoff in Weatherford, Okla.
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