Venom uses air attack to conquer Summit

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   After opening their 2003 campaign with a disappointing 26-0 loss to Asheville last week, the Tennessee Venom were looking for a brighter outcome in their home opener at Happy Valley High School against the Knoxville Summit on Saturday night.
   Riding the arm of quarterback Vanessa Burke, the Venom found the quickest way to conquer a Summit is to open the airways, and that they did as Burke connected for three touchdown tosses in paving the way for a 26-0 win for the home team and the first victory for co-owners Jeff Gethers and Susan Greenway.
   "Vanessa did a good job of reading the defense to make the audibles at the line and checked off well when she needed to," said player-owner Greenway after the contest. "Our offense did a good job as did the defense tonight as they swarmed the ball with three or four tacklers about every play."
   Burke was on top of her game as she passed for 171 yards, including the three touchdown passes. The Venom's first touchdown came after Burke connected with Elizabethton native Kristen Bowers on a 33-yard reception to the Summit's 13-yard line.
   After a carry by Jennifer Mayberry to the nine, Burke found tight end Chris Meister for a 6-0 Venom lead. The extra point was no good with 11:56 left in the second quarter.
   An interception by Megan Hall, who returned the ball to the Summit 24-yard line, put the Venom back in business. After three straight carries by Mary Horne moved the ball to the 12-yard line, Burke hooked up with Bridget Graves for the second touchdown of the contest and a 12-0 edge.
   On the ensuing possession, Tammy Woodle intercepted a Lindy Bingham pass to bring the half to a close.
   "We came out and decided to spread the offense and throw the ball," said owner-head coach Gethers, who was sharing the excitement with Greenway over their team's first win under their watch. "After we were able to utilize Vanessa, we then just started running up the middle."
   Hall all but sealed the Summit's fate in the third quarter as she picked off a pass from Andy Plemons, her second pick of the game, and returned the ball 50 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 18-0 in the Venom's favor.
   For good measure, Burke and Graves hooked up again with 1:09 left in the game, as Graves simply used her height advantage to outjump the Summit defender and haul in the pass. The two connected once again on the two-point conversion to give the final 26-0 tally for the game.
   Defense was huge for the Venom as they constantly frustrated the Summit in every phase of the game. Outstanding performances came from Celeste Meade, Tameasha Marks, and Kia Saunders as well as all the defensive backs.
   The win was big for the Venom because it proved that the team is finally making great strides to gel and completely understand their objectives.
   "We were extremely determined to win this game," said Bowers. "The rookie players have came on strong and along with the veteran players. We are finally settling down into the game and playing like we are capable of."
   The Venom will take next week off before heading for Nashville the following week. On May 17, the Venom will play a home game, but this time they will play at Volunteer High School as a result of graduation ceremonies at Happy Valley.