MOUNT VERNON — Big night, big plays, big victory.
The Mount Vernon football team kicked off its Homecoming party in style Friday, using big plays to beat Hilliard Bradley, 29-22, in Ohio Capital Conference action at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“What a game. We had quite a few big plays. That was key to our victory,” said Mount Vernon coach Gary Keller. “This was a big game. We finally beat somebody that’s a halfway decent team. I think this is going to give our kids more belief in the fact we can make those steps and do the kinds of things we needed to do. A little bit of our thing is learning to win. I think our kids tonight took a big step up in that regard. ... I thought it was an outstanding job by our staff and players.”
Junior Leevi Stump provided the fireworks offensively for the Jackets, scoring on runs of 43 and 97 yards, and also taking a kickoff back 86 yards for a touchdown.
Stump’s first touchdown, the 43-yarder, came after the Jackets (4-3 overall, 3-1 OCC) forced a fumble on a punt. Nick Rummel recovered the fumble, giving MV the ball near midfield. Jordan Montgomery gained 9 yards on the first play, then Stump broke a couple of tackles at the line and was gone for the touchdown.
“We started out slow and I knew we needed something big. I talked to my line, telling them we need some blocks so we can get it in there,” Stump said. “On that first touchdown we had, I told (Jordan) Crabtree to give me a block and he gave me one heckuva block and I loved it. That kid is only a sophomore, but he gives his heart out every play and I appreciate it.”
Bradley (3-4, 1-3) answered quickly, scoring on a 50-yard pass play from Corey Straight to Jordan Mulford. The Jaguars added two more scores early in the second quarter to take a 22-7 lead.
But, that’s when Stump went back to work.
The 5-foot-8 junior took the kickoff after Bradley’s third score and raced 84 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown.
“Me and (Ethan) Abell talk about it every play. We call who’s going to get it and I had that one. I knew we needed a big play on that. I wasn’t giving up. That hole was beautiful. It was wide open,” Stump said.
“That was huge, huge, huge. We kept telling the kids we can pop it if we can get them out of their seems. We were very fortunate to get the blocks we needed and Leevi, of course, you get him in the open and he’s gone,” Keller said.
The Jaguars looked like they were going to answer, getting a nice kickoff return from Blake Scipio and then pushing the ball down to the Jacket 4-yard line. But, the Jacket defense came up with another big play, forcing a fumble which Kyle Daniels recovered.
Stump took over from there.
On the second play, he raced 97 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown and the game was tied at 22.
“We get the initial block at the line and I do the best I can to break free. I know every player on that field doesn’t give up until I’m in that endzone and it’s amazing. This is the best teamwork we’ve had in I don’t know how long,” Stump said.
The Mount Vernon defense stepped up big time in the second half, holding Bradley to 10 yards rushing and just 48 yards passing. They also recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes on the night.
“They (Bradley) did a nice job in the first half. They were on fire, moving the ball up and down the field. But, we made the adjustments, got our feet on the ground and started playing better,” Keller said.
Mount Vernon missed a golden opportunity midway through the fourth quarter after recovering a Bradley fumble at the 14-yard line. They weren’t able to move the ball and Kyle Henthorn’s field goal attempt missed by inches to the left.
But, a nice long drive on their next possession, aided by a long run by Montgomery and a penalty on Bradley, put the Jackets on top to stay. Ethan Abell capped off the 10-play, 86-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.
Bradley tried twice to tie the score, but the Jacket defense stepped up, especially junior defensive back Bradley Fenton. Fenton broke up a fourth-down pass with three minutes left, then intercepted a Jaguar pass with one minute left to secure the victory.
Stump finished the night with 165 yards rushing and 50 yards passing to lead the Jackets. Montgomery added 80 yards rushing, while Abell caught Stump’s 50-yard pass.
Straight led the Jaguars with 51 yards rushing and 171 passing. He completed just 10 of 23 passes and was intercepted twice, once by Fenton and once by Abell. Mulford caught four of those passes for 98 yards.
The Jackets will look for their fourth straight victory next Friday when they travel to Watkins Memorial for a 7:30 p.m. start.