MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon football team was clutch Friday night.
The Yellow Jackets made big play after big play in beating rival Big Walnut 36-33 in an Ohio Capital Conference game at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“This was really a team win. The kids knew Big Walnut would come in and play us tough and the game wouldn’t be decided until the very end. I’m proud of the kids for hanging in and finding a way to win,” said Mount Vernon coach Gary Keller.
The win puts the Jackets (6-3 overall, 5-1 OCC) in a place they haven’t been in a while — close to a league title. Mount Vernon sits in second place, just one game behind league-leader New Albany. The teams meet next Friday at New Albany.
“Coach Keller, after Olentangy Orange, asked us where we wanted to be at the end of the season. I think the seniors and the juniors pulled together as a group and we’re downright a good football team. No one can question that now. We just beat a team that’s 7-1 and destroyed their playoff hopes,” Mount Vernon senior quarterback Jordan Montgomery said.
Friday’s game was a wild and woolly affair right from the start. Leevi Stump took the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back by a penalty. That fired up Big Walnut (7-2, 4-2), which shut down the Jackets’ offense and then rolled to a score of its own.
Montgomery came through with the first of many big plays for himself and the Jackets on the ensuing drive. He raced 7 yards on the first play, then went down the right side 56 yards for the tying touchdown.
The Jacket senior made two more big plays on the second drive, running for 37 yards, then hitting Stump on a 28-yard touchdown strike. That would be the first of four touchdown passes for Montgomery.
“Our offensive line did a tremendous job of picking up the changes they made against us. We were able to move the ball and pass the ball,” Montgomery said. “Our pass protection hasn’t always been the best, but this week it was amazing. It was downright amazing. Travis Day, Matt Adrian, Zach Shoro, Clay Curts, Levi Green and Micha Cormier were outstanding.”
Big Walnut wouldn’t go away, and kept pounding the ball at Mount Vernon. Jacob Walaszek scored his second touchdown and A.J. Fleak kicked a 45-yard field goal to help the Eagles take a 16-14 lead into the locker room.
The Eagles tried to take the air out of Mount Vernon to begin the second half. A bruising, 80-plus yard drive took up more than 10 minutes off the clock, but BW was only able to come away with a field goal after Zach Shoro came through with a big play. The Eagles had the ball on the 3-yard line and tried a reverse with Gabe Kitchen, but Shoro sniffed out the play and took him down for a 9-yard loss. BW could only kick a field goal and Mount Vernon was still close.
It took the Jackets just three plays to retake the lead. After two runs by Ethan Abell, Montgomery found him wide open on a pass, and the two hooked up for a 58-yard touchdown. Stump had a nice block downfield that enabled Abell to score.
From there, things got even crazier.
Big Walnut responded with a four-play, 74-yard drive to grab the lead back. Then Mount Vernon scored on a 54-yard pass from Montgomery to Stump with 5:49 left in the game.
The Eagles answered with a one-play, 67-yard scoring drive from Tyler Beam. But, MV was up to the challenge once again, scoring when Stump and Montgomery hooked up again, this time for 19 yards.
“I didn’t want them to have a drive. I wanted them to have a big play and score because we’re clutch in that kind of situation. We’ve done it all year,” Montgomery said. “I knew their defense was getting frustrated with our passing game and we took advantage of it.”
There was still time for BW, though. But, Abell and Bradley Fenton teamed up to strip the ball from BW’s Brandon Magyari and Shoro recovered, enabling Mount Vernon to run out the clock.
“That was big for our defense to come back with that last stop and get the ball back,” Keller said.
Montgomery finished the game completing 6 of 8 passes for 175 yards and the four touchdowns. He also had 104 yards rushing and a TD. Stump caught five of those passes for 117 yards and three of the scores. Abell caught the 58-yard scoring pass.
Big Walnut was able to rack up some big numbers offensively, most notably from quarterback Tyler Beam. The junior rushed for 242 yards and a touchdown, and added another 82 yards passing.
The Jackets will get a shot at an OCC title and a possible playoff berth when they travel to New Albany next Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“We’re not satisfied yet. We want to win and want a shot at the playoffs. That’s what the seniors’ goal was at the beginning of the year,” Montgomery said.