MOUNT VERNON — A win does a team good as Mount Vernon High School football coach Gary Keller found out. The Yellow Jackets are coming off their first win of the season, a 41-12 thumping of Mansfield Madison, last Friday night.
The game was dominated by defense and special teams, with the defense scoring a touchdown on a blocked punt.
“I think we are seeing a pattern,” said Keller. “The kids playing on the defensive side of the ball are an experienced group of players that have been together for a while now. We saw what we are capable of in the Lexington game; we saw quite a bit of it in the Wooster game when really it was 2-0 at halftime. then we put it all together against Madison. ... Our kids have been playing well. This is a good group of kids that seems to take what they are doing seriously. They want to do well.
“(The win) adds a lot of wind to our sails. It gives us leverage to push them even harder in practice. I think the kids feel better about themselves overall. It is a good thing for our players.”
The one downturn coming out of last week’s game is the injury situation. Already down three players, Mount Vernon may have lost a few more. Trey Williams missed the Madison game after a concussion sustained in a car accident earlier in the week. Then, during the game, Leevi Stump suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and Jordan Williamson suffered a concussion. Keller is hoping that Williams and Williamson will be able to go this week, but Stump is probably not going to be able to play.
With the injuries mounting, Keller knows his team can only sustain so much.
“The hard work is paying off, but we are getting our share of injuries,” Keller said. “One of our problems is we are suffering in terms of the number of players available for a game that can play at a high level. You can only endure so many injuries before you come up short. We don’t have too many Leevi Stumps, Jordan Montgomerys or even a Mark Lawson. That when it gets difficult.”
Week 4 presents a new challenge to the Jackets as Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division play begins. Mount Vernon travels to Olentangy Orange for the first time. The Jackets defeated Orange, 22-20, last year, but the Pioneers are off to an undefeated start so far this season. Even still, Keller believes in his team and likes its chances.
“Since we switched (divisions), we are much more competitive,” said Keller. “My first year here, we played a lot of teams we didn’t belong playing, especially Pickerington (Central) or Westerville (South). This (division) suits Mount Vernon football better. It gives us opportunities week in and week out to play with people and be able to compete. Whether we have enough firepower to complete that task and come out on top is the question. I do believe the kids are starting to believe they can compete each week. It is not like the old days when we got blown away. ... I believe Orange, even though they are 3-0, I believe we can compete with them. Who knows. If you can compete, you can win.
“The injury factor is always the trump card in this whole thing because if we get too beat up, then our chances of being successful aren’t good. If we can stay healthy, we’ll be OK. Even with the changes we had to make the last couple of weeks, we put together a pretty good offensive attack. I don’t know how all of this is going to come together, but I still believe we will be able to compete.”
Watching film, Keller quickly spotted that this Orange team is not the same as last year’s. They are bigger, faster and stronger, which has been the key to their success.
“They will be better,” said Keller. “They are a year along in the development as a program. They are stronger than they were last year from a physical standpoint. ... I think you are going to see that strength and that developing quickness transform into a lot of good things for them. ... They are a better football team than they were last year.
“They will be very similar in a lot of regards to Lexington. I don’t know if they are quite as explosive as Lexington, but it’s obvious they’ve got a pretty good level of skill in the program. ... There is a reason why they are 3-0.”
Keller is hoping his team can continue to progress and draw from their past experience this week. Mount Vernon has managed to deal with adversity in the first three games, and this week will be no different.
“You’re always tinkering a little bit as things change,” said Keller. “As a coach, you always have to be able to change as the game goes and be aware of the conditions that force you to change. We’ll see how it goes. I feel better going into this game. ... It is going to take a little bit of time to see how it plays out.
“It is always big to get wins anywhere you can get wins. We are going to go over to Orange and try to play a better game than we did last week. If we can, we are making progress. If we are playing better, then we are in charge of our destiny. We’re not making this a thing against Orange. We’re making it about ourselves.”
Game time begin at 7:30 p.m.