MOUNT VERNON — Struggling a bit early, the Mount Vernon football team found the spark it needed Friday night — its defense and special teams.
The Jackets scored on an interception return and blocked a punt in the first half, setting up another score, and rolled to a 27-13 victory over Cambridge in the home opener.
“Sometimes, we didn’t look as good as I would have liked us to look,” said Mount Vernon coach Gary Keller. “I still believe defense and special teams and ball security all wins football games. That’s what we have to continue to do. Hopefully, we continue to get better throughout these football games.
Things didn’t look good for the Jackets (1-1) early on, as Cambridge (1-1) took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards on just five plays to score. Tyler Ford broke through on a 46-yard run on the third play to put the Bobcats in business. Then, quarterback Trevor Wilson found Reese Lashley on a 13-yard touchdown pass for the first score of the game.
The Bobcats were moving the ball well on their fourth drive of the game when the Jackets came up with the momentum changer.
Cambridge attempted a screen pass, but senior lineman Zane Smith got a finger tip on it and senior linebacker Alex Lambert grabbed it and was off to the races. He went 71 yards with the interception to knot the score at 7.
“That was huge. We worked a lot on their screens. They’re a pretty good screening team and we spent a lot time on that and it paid off. We almost had two of them. That was a big turning point, it gave our kids the belief that we could win the football game,” Keller said.
Mount Vernon’s special teams then came up with a huge play of its own. Kenny Rucker broke through the line and blocked the Cambridge punt attempt, setting MV up with the ball at the Bobcat 16-yard line.
“We think that we can block punts. It’s an important part of our game,” Keller said. “That was huge. It gave us good field position at that point and time and we ended up getting a score off that. We’ve got to find things like that to do throughout a game to be competitive.”
After a penalty, senior running back Jordan Montgomery broke a couple of tackles and raced 22 yards to the 1-yard line. Junior quarterback Shawn Maxwell then pushed through the line for the touchdown with just 12 seconds left until halftime, putting MV up 13-7.
The Jackets took that momentum and ran with it, scoring on the opening drive of the third quarter. Two big runs from Montgomery set up a 29-yard scoring pass from Maxwell to senior wideout Ethan Abell.
Cambridge moved into scoring position on its next drive, but stalled after a holding penalty. The Bobcats were able to score early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Ford.
The Jackets were able to put the game on ice with a long run by Leevi Stump. The junior raced untouched for 64 yards for MV’s final score.
Stump finished with 79 yards on just three carries to lead the Jackets. He also caught one pass for 19 yards. Montgomery added 69 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Maxwell hit on 4 of 6 passes for 63 yards and the touchdown to Abell.
After surrendering the first long drive, the Mount Vernon defense settled down, holding the Bobcats to just 308 yards of offense. Ford had 104 yards rushing no 23 carries, while Wilson connected on 14 of 31 passes for 163 yards.
Defensively for Mount Vernon, Lambert finished with 14 tackles, while Tyler Lewis had 10.
“I thought that first drive when the scored, it looked like our kids had their feet in concrete. We didn’t look like we recognized things and were slow reacting. They moved the ball right down the field and scored on us right away. After that, we got our feet under us on a defensive standpoint and I was pretty happy with the way we played,” Keller said. “I think we had a pretty good team effort. The linebackers were playing hard. We had to make a change in the secondary, but I think our kids adapted pretty well and played pretty good football.
The Jackets will look to keep things going next Friday when they host Mansfield Madison. Game time is 7:30 p.m.