MOUNT VERNON — Missed opportunities, some bad breaks and a questionable call doomed the Mount Vernon football team Friday.
The Yellow Jackets twice drove the ball into the red zone, but came away with just three points, then watched as Mansfield Madison took advantage of a questionable call to pull out the 20-16 victory at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“We did not bring our best game. That’s not to take anything away from Madison. They played well. If we expect to win, we’ve got to play well,” said Mount Vernon coach Gary Keller. “Obviously, we did not make enough plays and they did.”
A nice punt return by Leevi Stump gave the Jackets good field position on their first drive. Mount Vernon (1-2) drove down to the 6-yard line, but a dropped pass and another incompletion forced them to attempt a field goal. Kyle Henthorn’s 25-yard boot gave MV the early 3-0 lead.
After giving up a couple of big plays late in the first quarter to Madison (1-2), the Jackets looked like they were going to shut the door. But, Ram quarterback Alek Lampert found Cory Hornikel open on a fourth down play that kept the drive alive. Cody Thompson finished off the drive for the Rams, scoring from 4 yards out.
The Rams kept control of the momentum on their next drive, going 53 yards 10 plays to go up 14-3.
“They do a nice job of doing what they do. They were mixing it up with the inside dive and the quarterback was very active,” Keller said. “And, they completed enough passes to stay on the field. I don’t think our defense played that many plays. They just kept us off balance.”
The Jackets looked to answer quickly, marching right down the field. They were able to move the ball effectively, and with the help of a couple of Madison penalties, got the ball into the red zone. But, a fumbled snap put them in a tough spot and the Jackets were forced to attempt a field goal. Henthorn’s 31-yard attempt was wide left and the Jackets missed out on another opportunity.
“We’ve got to get points. We had a couple of opportunities to get them and we did not. That hurts, especially in a close game,” Keller said. “When the game goes down to the wire, you’ve got to capitalize on the opportunities you have to score. When you don’t, they come back to bite you and tonight, that’s what happened.”
Mount Vernon’s opportunistic defense set the Jackets up in the third quarter. Joshua Wright stole the ball away from Hornikel, giving the Jackets the ball near midfield. The Jackets went 58 yards on 10 plays, capped off by a 5-yard TD pass from Shawn Maxwell to Ethan Abell.
The game was still in doubt early in the fourth quarter when the Jackets were stung by a close call by the officials. Madison had been forced to punt from their own 38, but the Jackets were called for a roughing the punter call when it appeared no one was near him. That 15-yard penalty kept the Ram drive alive and they went on to score when Lampert hit Taj Coffee on a 24-yard strike on another fourth down play.
Mount Vernon was able to fight back, scoring on a 4-yard run by Maxwell with four minutes left in the game. After a good defensive stand, the Jackets got the ball back with three minutes left and moved it into Ram territory before the drive stalled and Madison was able to run out the clock.
Maxwell led the Jackets offensively with 50 yards rushing and 115 yards through the air on 12 of 32 passes. Stump added 49 yards rushing and 29 receiving, while Abell caught five passes for 44 yards and Clay Curts caught three balls for 30 yards.
Madison was led by Hornikel, who had 66 yards rushing. Lampert added 97 yards passing and 65 on the ground.
Alex Lambert had 10 tackles to lead the Jackets defensively. Tyler Lewis had eight and Abell was involved in seven stops.
The Jackets will open play in the Ohio Capital Conference next Friday when they entertain Olentangy Orange at 7:30 p.m.
“This one is going to be a tough one to get over. We have to go out with the approach that every week we try to play a better game,” Keller said.