MOUNT VERNON — Even before the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets stepped onto the field against the Delaware Pacers last week, they had suffered a defeat of sorts. The football Jackets lost senior quarterback Kody Green to a season-ending injury last Thursday, then turned around and lost to the Pacers on Friday night.
The double whammy sent shockwaves through a team which had already experienced many injuries. Head coach Gary Keller was forced to play two inexperienced quarterbacks, and the final result showed with a season-high six turnovers.
“There is no question that when your personnel is changing as quickly as ours, you are going to get into mistakes,” said Keller. “We experienced that on Friday night. A lot of that comes from not being able to play together and work together. We really had only one practice with Shawn Maxwell and Brandon Porter, so we didn’t have a lot of time to work with those guys and I think it was obvious when we got onto the field.”
Keller believes the loss of Green was more than skin deep for his squad. He’s hoping that with a little more practice under their belts, the Jackets will play better this week.
“We didn’t want to discount the loss of Kody and try to tell the kids everything would be all right, because I think there was a big hurdle in front of our players,” Keller said. “I think that was evident in our play — the psychological effect of not having one of your senior guys. I think we are adjusting to that, and I think that given the week to practice, you are going to see a big difference in our quarterback play this week. We are over that hump, and with the time that we’ve spent coaching this week, you’ll see some good things happen.”
Green’s injury just continues a season-long trend for Mount Vernon. Already missing two other players for the season, the injuries have piled up week after week. Leevi Stump (ankle) and Kolton Wilson (ankle) are both questionable for this week’s contest against Worthington Kilbourne.
“More than any other season I’ve had here, we’ve been affected by injuries,” said Keller. “I’m not sure why it has happened, but the way it has been transpiring, it is really devastating our team. Injuries are a thing you can’t control. ... My policy on injuries — and this goes back to my years in college — is we don’t want our kids to be injured, period, but if they are going to be injured, it has got to happen in the course of a game. We do not want to lost players in practice. That’s my No. 1 rule. Injuries are part of the game, and you can’t control it. You just have to accept it and move on.”
The Kilbourne Wolves come to Mount Vernon with mixed success. Having played just four games due to a cancellation by Grove City’s lack of a team, the Wolves are 2-2 at this point. They fell to Upper Arlington last week, 22-21, but blew out Hilliard Darby in Week 4, 34-20. Kilbourne is averaging 17.75 points per game on offense while allowing an average of 21.5 points a game on defense.
“They are a good football team,” Keller said. “If you look at their personnel, they have a lot of guys I would have recruited at Ashland. Their right offensive tackle is big. They’ve got a big, strong offensive line; they have a system in place where they are running option football, and they do an excellent job at it. As I watch them play, I see the same thing over and over. They are a solid football team, not a flashy team, but they are going to come at you and pound away at you. They are going to pursue you on defense and be sound in what they are doing. That’s why they are a pretty good football team.
“For us, it is going to be a challenge to match up with their personnel. They are probably going to be the strongest team we’ve played so far, so we have to look at ourselves. We are going to have to do some things that we might not normally do; our players are going to have to play at a higher level.”
This week is also homecoming week for Mount Vernon. A bonfire and parade were held on Wednesday night to help get the student body ready for Friday’s game. Keller is hoping he can get his team to focus in on the game and leave the festivities behind when it takes the field.
“We always talk to the kids about focusing in on the task at hand,” Keller said. “Homecoming week does bring a lot of distractions, and I think for 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids, that’s tough. I can talk about the importance of the game, but they still see importance in the other things that are going on around them. I understand the importance of the things taking place at this point and time in their lives, but we will try to focus them as we get closer to the game. ... These are fun things and I want our kids to enjoy these things, but I don’t want them to lose sight of the fact that the game is important.”