VIENNA — Sesser-Valier-Waltonville hung on to beat Vienna-Goreville 42-36 on Saturday to put itself in position to play for a share of the Black Diamond Conference championship next week.
But the day’s biggest story came from the other sideline. Moments after his team lost their seventh straight game to fall to 1-7, Eagles coach Mike Rude confirmed rumors that he would leave the program after Friday night’s season finale at Carmi-White County.
The 70-year old Rude came into this season hoping that Vienna-Goreville might be a playoff contender in Class 3A. A Week 1 rout of Christopher-Zeigler-Royalton did nothing to dissuade that optimism, but the Eagles haven’t been able to overcome an inability to stop opponents or stop turning the ball over.
“They didn’t come in here today thinking they would be six points ahead at the end of the day,” Rude said of the Red Devils (7-1). “They’re looking ahead to Fairfield next week. This is what I thought we would do for 7-to-8 weeks. Sometimes they came to play, sometimes they didn’t.”
Rude nearly tacked on his 218th career win in his 375th career game as a head coach. Down 14-0 with 4:04 left in the second quarter after a 15-yard touchdown run by Reid Basso, Vienna-Goreville rallied with consecutive touchdowns bridging the two halves.
When Logyn Frassato jumped over the goal line from the 1 and then caught a two-point conversion pass from Kyle Vancleve, the Eagles led 16-14 with 6:15 left in the third period. At that point, Vienna-Goreville held a whopping 11-minute advantage in time of possession.
Then S-V-W unleashed Jayon Malone on the Eagles. The powerfully-built Malone picked up 165 of his 248 yards after halftime, ripping off five runs of at least 15 yards. He scored four touchdowns on runs of 1, 4, 2 and 38 yards.
The last scoring jaunt capped a wild 75-second stretch in which the teams combined for three scores, giving the Red Devils a 42-24 advantage.
“There really wasn’t a difference,” Malone said when asked if there was a halftime adjustment. “It was just a matter of following the game plan. I couldn’t have done anything without our linemen. I can’t be more thankful for what I’ve got right now.”
Vienna-Goreville created some late-game drama with two touchdowns in the last six minutes. Aiden Kuhn picked up a fumble and rumbled 25 yards with 5:54 remaining. The Eagles then cashed in a Malone fumble, Kuhn plowing over from the 1 with 1:20 left to cut the margin to six.
But Christian Cobb recovered an onside kick at the S-V-W 43, Basso ripped off a 17-yard run on first down to move the chains and the Red Devils could finally breathe easy.
Basso finished with 106 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as S-V-W chewed up 403 rushing yards. Kuhn carved out 95 yards on 25 attempts for the Eagles, scoring three times.
Rude isn’t planning on Friday night’s game being his last one. He started the Eagles’ program before the 2009 season and left after guiding them to consecutive playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013. Rude returned prior to the 2016 season after spending two years at Morthland College.
“I’ll be coaching somewhere,” he said. “I’ve got 49 years of football knowledge, I run sprints with my players. I wasn’t having an effect on their lives down here, and the obstacles I were facing were too many.”
Before lauding his injury-riddled club for its resiliency as it prepares for unbeaten Fairfield’s visit next week, Red Devils coach John Shadowens saluted Rude.
“He’s the story today,” Shadowens said. “I’ve coached against him for a long time and he’s always been a friendly adversary. It’s like Bum Phillips said about Don Shula, he could take his and beat yours, then he could take yours and beat his. That was Mike.”