FAIRLEA, WV- The Greenbrier East Spartans struggled through most of the 2023 football season limping to a 1-8 record before Friday night’s season finale against the Lincoln County Panthers.
But Friday brought new fortunes and a Spartan team that looked determined to close out this year on a high note when they very easily could have closed everything down and gone home.
After a senior night recognition ceremony for the senior football players, cheer, and band members, East took the field and made it their personal mission to shine on what was a cold and chilly night. After the game was over, the Spartans had scored a huge 48-13 victory.
And like fate would have it, it was the seniors who shined the brightest.
On the Panthers first series, quarterback Luke Johaim threw a screen pass out to the right side, but the ball was deflected into the air and senior Landon Vanfosson snatched it and took it 36 yards for a pick-6 score as the Spartans led 6-0 just over a minute into the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, the momentum stayed on the East sideline when Lincoln County muffed the return and Carter Hamilton pounced on it for the Spartans. That quickly set up a 9-yard TD run from Brody Hamric, and the Spartans took a 14-0 lead after a 2-point pass to Abram Wickline with 9:25 left in the opening quarter.
Aiden Cole, another senior for East, sacked Johaim to kill the subsequent Panther drive and the scoring stalled until early in the second quarter for both teams.
Grant Burdette was the recipient of a Hamric pass that he turned up field and raced 42 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 21-0 Spartans lead with 10:05 remaining in the second quarter.
East then forced a turnover when James McCraw and Austin Roberts chased Johaim out of bounds for a loss on fourth down and got the ball back to their offense. Then, the first play of the next series, Hamric threw a quick screen to Abram Wickline who saw a hole, went straight through it, and darted 36 yards for a score. Following Owen Romero’s extra point, East led 28-0 with 8:19 left in the first half.
That is when the Panthers finally decided to get on the scoreboard. After a nice drive down the field, Austin Adkins caught a 9-yard TD pass as Lincoln County pulled within 28-7.
A big sack from Vanfosson kept that score the same as the half ended with momentum on the Spartans side.
Austin Dunlap caught a touchdown pass for the Panthers early in the third quarter that cut their deficit to just 28-13 and leaving the Spartans no choice but to answer quickly to keep the game in hand.
And the Spartans obliged.
Following a couple long passes to Burdette and some good runs from Wickline, East capped the drive with a 4-yard TD pass from Hamric to Kaden Stone in the back of the end zone. So, with 4:53 left in the third quarter, the Spartans led 35-13.
Vanfosson and Roberts teamed up to rack up a nice sack a couple series later as both players were just superior all night.
Cole then gave himself something for his memory bank. He scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for the first touchdown of his season, and without looking at any official stats of the last couple years, his first career score.
Stone added a 13-yard score, his second of the game for the Spartans final score of the season.
Hamric was good in his final appearance. He went 13-of-23 for 206 yards and four touchdowns. Burdette caught six passes for 101 yards and a score. Wickline pulled in four passes for 69 yards and a TD and Stone had two touchdown catches.
There were a lot of players that stood out on defense for East. Vanfosson, the McDonalds player of the game, had arguably the best game of his career. He had the pick-6, a couple sacks, a tackle for loss and had a fumble return for a TD that wasn’t called. Cole, Weston Pence, Hamilton, and McCraw were everywhere, and Roberts was as good as he has ever been as well. It was a complete team effort victory.
The Spartans are now officially in the off-season and will return to the field in August of 2024.
Stats courtesy of 103.1, WRON.
GE: Landon Vanfosson, 36-yd int ret TD
GE: Brody Hamric, 9-yd TD run
GE: Grant Burdette, 42-yd TD reception
GE: Abram Wickline, 36-yd TD reception
LC: Austin Adkins, 9-yd TD reception
LC: Austin Dunlap, 3-yd TD reception
GE: Kaden Stone, 4-yd TD reception
GE: Aiden Cole, 1-yd TD run
GE: Kaden Stone, 13-yd TD reception
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