MOUNT VERNON — The preseason practices and scrimmages are over. It’s time to strap on the football helmet and get down to the business of the real season.
Mount Vernon kicks off its 2010 campaign against a familiar foe — Lexington — on Friday at Lex Stadium at 7 p.m. The Jackets have faced the Minutemen in the opening game of the season the last two years, losing both times. But, coach Gary Keller believes his Jackets are focused and ready to start this season off on a good note.
“The kids believe we can play with these guys, if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We’re in it to win it. That’s the kind of attitude we have going into it. The kids are not in awe (of Lexington). We think we can go up there and play hard and we’re going to be right in the football game,” Keller said.
After playing three scrimmages, the Jackets face the task of tweaking its offense heading into the first regular season contest. Junior quarterback Shawn Maxwell was hurt in last Friday’s scrimmage against Jonathan Alder and will probably not be available to play. Keller said senior Jordan Montgomery will be called upon to fill those shoes, as well as continue the good things he’s done in the backfield.
“We’re in a situation where we’re going to tweak the offense. We’re just tweaking it because of Jordan Montgomery and the things we can do with him and some of the others on the squad. It’s not ideally where we want to be, but yet we’re not in a bad situation because we’re getting more people ready to play. As we heal, we’ll be a better football team because of it,” Keller said. “We’ll probably be running out of our wildcat set. It’ll be a little different twist to what we normally do offensively.”
The Jackets will have plenty of offensive weapons around Montgomery, though. Senior Ethan Abell and juniors Leevi Stump and Jake Smith will give the Jackets plenty of options to move the football.
To give those guys room to operate, the Jackets offensive line will have to be ready. Travis Day, Zach Shoro, Matt Adrian and Alex Lambert all return after seeing significant time last year. And with the addition of Tyler Lewis, who saw time as H-back last year, Keller feels his experienced line will be up to the task.
“We have a good quality line. We want to run the football. With our offensive line, we want to move the football, score and do some good things,” he said.
A young, inexperienced secondary has Keller a bit worried, though, as the Minutemen like to run the spread offense and rack up big plays. The Minutemen will have to replace quarterback Courtney Avery, who threw for almost 2,000 yards a year ago. But, Keller believes they won’t stray from the norm.
“They’re very much like they’ve looked in the past. They like to spread it out and throw the ball often and they’ve got a pretty good quarterback (Collin Michael),” he said. “They are a solid football program with a good coach (B.J. Payne). They’ll be ready to play and well coached.”
Special teams are another concern of Keller’s, as he must replace both the punter and kicker from last year. Kyle Henthorn, who’s also on the soccer team, will do the place kicking, while Lewis will handle the punting chores.
Even with some questions, Keller knows his Jackets will be ready to compete Friday night.
“We’re building with the philosophy of a great defense, good special teams and ball security offensively. If we can do those three things, we’ll have an opportunity. That’s what we want — to go into the fourth quarter and want to be in a position to win the football game.”