MOUNT VERNON — With less than a week to go before kickoff, the Mount Vernon High School varsity football team is finalizing plans for the upcoming season. The scrimmages are past, and Lexington looms on the horizon.
This is the time they’ve been preparing for — kickoff. Throughout out all of the camp days and two-a-day practices, the team has been building toward this very moment.
One large part of that process has been the coaching staff. There was some maneuvering in the offseason that left some holes to fill and jobs to be done. Those positions have been decided and the staff hit the ground running right from the start of practice.
The coaching staff is a little leaner this year, trimming from 10 coaches to eight. Former offensive coordinator Hayes Dean took the same job under Charlie Duncan at Danville, and assistant Brian Gastin chose not to coach this season. Pete Lyons also moved on to coach under former Yellow Jacket head coach Scott Spitler, who took over the football program at Lucas. That has led to several others stepping up.
“We had some turnover,” said Mount Vernon head coach Gary Keller. “Jerry Williams is our offensive coordinator. He comes to Mount Vernon after coaching at Big Walnut and Fredericktown. Mike Williams, no relation, will be our runningback coach; David Pastiva will be our wide receiver coach; Brian Leis will be our offensive line coach. ... Defensively, Morgan Williams, who is Mike’s brother, and myself will coach defense. Beau Wolford will be coaching jayvee and defensive line coach. We have a couple of new coaches that came on board. Josh Summerlot, who just graduated from Ohio Northern University, will be coaching our freshmen and assisting with defensive line play. Then we have Jeremy Hess, who has coached at the junior high level, joining our freshman team too.
“All of those guys with the exception of Jerry Williams, Josh Summerlot and Jeremy Hess have been in our program since I’ve been here,” said Keller. “We’ve got some people that seem new, but they are not new to the school itself. We moved people around and that’s the biggest thing. Bryan Donaldson and Dan Dennis wanted to work with the junior high program, and they will be coaching our seventh-grade team.”
Jerry Williams is the biggest change for the Jackets, who have averaged just 11.3 points a contest since Keller arrived in 2007. Last year, that average dropped to 10.8 points a game.
“The one thing about Jerry is that he has come in and really worked with the program; he is here all the time,” said Keller. “You really need to be that kind of person, and he has been here. He started coming to meetings early last spring, and we were able to talk about different ideas. He has been very flexible and open to new ideas. You’ll see us run a lot of different things this year from an offensive standpoint, and that’s what Jerry brings. He been with several different programs and I think he will add to the mix of ideas and schemes we have. Will we be more productive or not? We’ll have to wait and see.”
With a few new faces and some juggling of the staff, the Yellow Jackets haven’t missed a beat. If anything, the squad looks to be more cohesive this time around.
“It hasn’t been a real major transition,” said Keller. “Kids are really adjustable. They go in and out of different sports all the time and are being coached by different people in every sport. They are pretty smart kids.
“Having new faces and new ideas breathes life into the program,” added Keller. “That is always a good thing.”
As Week 1 preparation continues to find the team eager to prove itself, only time will tell if the changes made will make a difference. If their attitudes prove anything, however, it is going to be a good year for Mount Vernon.
“We are all on the same path,” Keller said. “I’m not looking back. I think we have a nice group of coaches that are working with the kids. I think we are building chemistry, and chemistry is the most important thing within a squad. Teams that have great chemistry seem to do better. ... I thought we had good chemistry last year, but it didn’t work and, for whatever reason, people decided to go in different directions. I’m ready to roll this year. This is a great group of kids we are working with. The coaches we have added are working hard and I am very optimistic.”
Kickoff for the season opener on Friday night against Lexington is set for 7:30 p.m. at Yellow Jacket Stadium.