MOUNT VERNON — For a lot of teams, a loss leaves more questions than answers. For the Mount Vernon High School varsity football squad, however, it’s the opposite.
In Friday night-turned-into-Saturday-night’s 42-17 loss to the Lexington Minutemen, coach Gary Keller got a lot of answers to questions he had been asking. Overall, he was pleased with what he saw.
“First of all, I do not think the score was a good indication of the game,” said Keller. “I thought we played them pretty well. The score in the fourth quarter got out of hand because of a few things. As I looked at film, I thought we did a lot of good things. For that, I am very encouraged.
“My biggest thing this week in practice has been going away from the idea of winning and getting back to the basics of improvement. The inputs we put in have to increase, and if we put the right kinds of input in, the output will come out the way we want it.”
The Jackets rose to the occasion several times against the Minutemen, and Keller believes that is just the start for this team.
“They have several Division I players who have already committed to big-time schools,” Keller said. “Being able to say, ‘Hey, they did beat us a few times, but we held them in check really well,’ is huge, and our offense was able to move the ball at times and do some things. We were in this game. We put ourselves in a position to succeed.
“I think it was a good thing for our kids because we played a team that was a really good football team. It was a test. It was nothing more than a test to see where we are at, and I think our kids came out feeling like we can compete with those types of teams. That is going to be a success for down the road.”
The Jackets’ defense was perhaps the most impressive. Aside from two big plays, Lexington had to work for what it got.
“I believed going in that we were going to be strong defensively. That was one of the basic beliefs I had about this team,” said Keller. “What transpired was pretty much what I thought would happen. I thought we would meet the challenge. I wasn’t sure how we would match up with the speed, and their big kids beat us a couple of times, but overall, we held them in check and somewhat kept them off balance.”
Mount Vernon has turned its sights to the next team on the schedule — the Wooster Generals — and Keller sees a lot of common traits.
“Wooster is going to be a team that is very similar to Lexington in what they play and the schemes that they do,” said Keller. “It is almost identical to what we’ve seen. They play a 3-3 stack on defense, and run a spread offense. They throw in a little bit different kinds of things, but are very similar. I think that helps us because we are working on the same kinds of things we did last week. It is not going to be a surprise.
“Their [offensive and defensive] lines are not going to be as strong as what we saw against Lexington. They do, however, have some good players on their team. They have good skill. That will challenge us because of the speed and quickness that they have.”
Speed is what beat Mount Vernon when the Jackets played Wooster last year. Keller plans to use a “blanket” technique to try and stop the Generals this time around.
“The thing you’ve got to do against this kind of team is hold them in check. You can’t allow the big play. They can score a touchdown in one play; they have explosive athletes,” Keller said. “We need to contain them, and not let up at any point in time because they have the big-play potential. Some teams have it and some teams don’t; and they have it.
“We’ve worked hard on the fundamentals. Good fundamentals will help limit the big plays. ... We are trying to do things that will make us better on Friday night. I see it as little things, not big things. We’ve got to make sure we do the little things properly, and the big things will take care of themselves.”
Offensively, Mount Vernon moved the ball in Week 1. A knee injury to starting tailback Jordan Montgomery slowed the team down in the second half, however. Against Wooster, the Jackets must find a way to punch the ball into the end zone.
“There are a couple of things in play this week for our offense,” said Keller. “No. 1, we lost Jordan Montgomery, and it is going to be hard to replace him. I’ve challenged our team to see who is going to step up and take his place. He brought a number of things to the table. Having him out on the field made a difference for us. We’ve got to have someone step up.
“With that being said, we’ve got to stay balanced in what we are doing. Coach [Jerry] Williams is working hard to make our passing game complement our running game. We’ve got to be balanced in our attack.”
Montgomery’s injury has bee diagnosed as an ACL tear in his right knee. Keller also learned Wednesday morning that he will need a new kicker after senior Nick Sahr injured his left knee in Tuesday night’s boys soccer game at Olentangy Orange. Sahr kicked a 39-yard field goal in the opener.
“Injuries are definitely a factor,” said Keller. “We’re in the early stages and we’ve had three serious injuries already. We lost Mark Lawson before the season to a knee injury. Jordan Montgomery has an ACL tear, and now, Nick [Sahr] has an ACL injury. It is a situation that will definitely impact our team.
“We, as a coaching staff and as a team, have to ask what can we do? A lot of times, we have to look to other areas. Last week, we had a young man step up that I didn’t know about — sophomore Bradley Fenton. He got an opportunity to play and proved to us that he could play at this level. It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to look closer at our people. Are there players that we are missing that might be able to help us? We’ve got to look around to see if they can help us.”
Kickoff for Friday’s game at Wooster is set for 7 p.m.