MOUNT VERNON — Coming off its best played game under coach Gary Keller, the Mount Vernon High School football team has a lot of momentum heading into Week 3. The Yellow Jackets lost to Wooster, 16-15, but a strong defensive performance left Keller thinking extremely positive thoughts.
“I really felt that was the kind of team we are,” said Keller. “Coming into the season, I visualized our defense as that kind of defense. We have good people and can be a good football team out on the field. That was evident last week against Wooster. We’ve faced a little bit of adversity with our kicker and tailback out; we are going through a growing phase and you could see that in the game in the second half. We tried to get things straightened out.
“Offensively, we are still trying to patch and replace Jordan (Montgomery), and that’s not an easy thing to do. We are looking in different directions at how we can solve those type of problems.”
The Jackets led Wooster, 2-0, at the half, but the offense posted a couple of touchdowns in the second half, which was good to see. Now, if they can find a little more consistency, Keller believes they can be a threat.
“I think our coaching staff is seeing what kind of football team we can be as we continue to develop from an offensive standpoint,” said Keller. “Some times you are not able to see it until you get into a battle. I think as we sort things out in these games, we are seeing the direction we need to go. We have changed. In losing Jordan, we lost a strong running back. We may not be able to slam that belly play in there, or run power off-tackle as often, but we’ve got to find something else that works. That’s where we are at; we’re trying to get a feel for our offense and what direction we want to go.”
Mount Vernon heads north to Mansfield Madison in Week 3. The Rams, who beat Mount Vernon 27-13 last season, are off to an 0-2 start. They dropped a nail-biter to Shelby in Week 1, 14-13, and then were defeated by Tiffin Columbian, 39-23, last week.
The two teams have no common opponents, though Shelby faced off against Lexington in Week 2. Mount Vernon played Lexington tough in the opener before falling 42-17, and Lexington blew out the Whippets, 42-6, last week.
Still, Keller expects nothing but Madison’s best.
“You can never take anybody for granted,” Keller said. “We’re trying to get great practices in. We know our performance is based on our preparation. With the rain situation (Tuesday) night, we’re a little behind. We’re going to have to work harder (today) than we normally do to get ready for this game. I look at Madison as a team that likes to run and control the football. They like to run the ball and play pretty good defense. We’re going to have to be able to stop their running game, and force them to pass the football. If we can do that, we will be successful.
“They are a tough team to prepare for because of the fact that Madison is totally different from the other two teams we’ve faced. They are not a spread team; in fact, they are probably as far away from a spread team as you can get. They are a an unbalanced team that will lineup and try to pound the football. They are a little bit more of a Wing-T concept in what they are doing. It will be a great adjustment for our kids to try and make that transition. That’s where our emphasis has been placed.
“It should be more of a containment type of issue with this offense as opposed to a lot of skilled athletes running around,” continued Keller. “Now, our problem is focused right in front of us. It is going to be more of a slugfest at the line of scrimmage. ... What Madison has shown so far is that they are able move the ball on the ground, but they’ve had mistakes and shot themselves in the foot.”
Madison’s 266 yards rushing against Columbian can attest for its offensive firepower. Keller, and the rest of Knox County, now know the Jackets are capable of controlling a game defensively. The only question now is can they do it again on Friday night?
“Each week, I always think the biggest issue is trying to get our kids mentally and physically ready to play their best game,” said Keller. “Our challenge every week is to play better than what we played the week before. I thought last week, we played a pretty good football game. We held them to a score where we could win. We are constantly evaluating and asking ourselves, ‘How can we do it better than we are right now?’ It is obvious there are parts of the game where we can be better. ... We just have to be better.”
Time will tell at 7 p.m. Friday night.
PROBLEM SOLVED?: The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets may have solved their kicking dilemma, but not for another week at least. After losing senior Nick Sahr to a leg injury before Week 2, sophomore Michael Johnson was thrust into the role. While accurate, his lack of leg strength had Keller looking elsewhere, however. After a short search, Keller believes he may have found Sahr’s more permanent replacement.
“We had a couple of kickers come out and we let them,” said Keller. “It takes a five-day acclimation period, so they can’t play this week. Maybe next week we will have our kicking situation back to normal.
“Russell Doup came out and he has a huge leg. He is an all-around athlete. Robert Kane also came out and he has a really strong leg. Both of them are on-par with Nick (Sahr) in terms of leg strength. If we can stabilize that part of our game, that will hopefully be a big addition.”
Both Doup and Kane are varsity baseball players for the Jackets, and Doup is also a two-year varsity basketball player.