By Steven Kochersperger
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Friday night it was the Mount Vernon Wildcats delivering that dish to the visiting Washington Hatchets. Last season Washington ended the year for the Wildcats in the sectional by beating Mount Vernon 35-0, but this matchup would be a complete flip from last year as the Mount Vernon Wildcats beat Washington by the same score, 35-0, in an important mid season Big Eight Conference game in Mount Vernon.
“We played with a tremendous amount of confidence tonight, which was great to see.” Mount Vernon Coach Paul Maier said after the game. “We’ve been lacking that the last three weeks. We spent a lot less time on the field in practice this week and more time in the classroom talking about mental toughness, confidence and rising up when the need is there. We talked about leadership and our seniors did a phenomenal job tonight of leading.”
One of those seniors leading the way Friday night was quarterback River VanZant. VanZant returned to action after missing playing time this season due to injury. VanZant played three quarters of football against the Hatchets and led the way by rushing for two touchdowns and throwing two more, both to senior wideout JT Silvers. The Wildcat quarterback ended the game 7 for 13 with 140 yards passing and added 72 yards on the ground as well.
“He looked very good tonight,” Maier said of River VanZant. ”He got better and better as the game went on and I’m very happy with his game tonight.”
VanZant wasn’t the only player to come back and play well for the Wildcats. Junior running back Austin Guthrie, who missed last week’s game in Vincennes, started off slowly Friday but ended up contributing and having a great game for the Cats. And seeing Guthrie return to action that way made Coach Maier happy.
“He played very well tonight. Austin is finally seeing the running lanes. He’s not running straight up and down, he’s lowering his pads. Those 3-yard gains that happened in the first quarter turned into 6 yard gains. That’s because of our O-Line and how he was running the ball tonight,” Maier said.
The Mount Vernon running attack racked up a total of 259 yards on 48 attempts.
VanZant (River) began the game, after the defense held the Hatchets to a three and out, on the Hatchet 8 yard line thanks to a great punt return. VanZant got the Wildcats on the board first at the 8:45 mark in the first quarter on a quarterback keeper play from the one yard line. After a successful point after attempt the Wildcats led early 7-0. And they never looked back.
The Wildcat defense played well from the beginning holding the visiting Hatchets to 3-and-outs the first three possessions of the game. With 1:13 left in the first quarter senior Wildcat Brian Koch sacked the Washington quarterback, firing up the team and the fans. Koch would also contribute offensively helping the Wildcats move the ball down field and be in a position to score more points.
In the second quarter the Wildcats would build their cushion as the Mount Vernon offense drove down the field to score before halftime. River VanZant connected with JT Silver on a 17-yard pass taking the Wildcats down to the 13 yard line with 2:18 left in the half.
The Cats would get in position to score from the six yard line thanks to running back Austin Guthrie, and VanZant ran it in from there for his second touchdown of the game putting Mount Vernon ahead 14-0 at the half.
The third quarter began with the Wildcats on their own 25 yard line, looking to take the ball down field and build a three possession lead. The long drive, marked by two Wildcat holding penalties, ended in a beautiful 60-yard touchdown pass from River VanZant to JT Silvers. Silvers broke free from his defenders, caught the long pass, and took it to the end zone to put the Cats up 21-0. The pair would hook up one more time in the quarter as VanZant threw his second touchdown to Silvers, this time from 11 yards out with just 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter would find more of the same. But instead of it being River VanZant doing the scoring, this time it would be his cousin Ethan finding the end zone. With 9:42 left in the game Ethan VanZant ran 73 yards to the end zone but had the score called back on a Wildcat holding penalty. That wouldn’t stop VanZant though. Just five minutes later he iced the game with a touchdown for the Cats putting the score to 35-0.
And that would do it for the Wildcats as they improved their overall record to 2-3 and found their first Big Eight Conference win of the season.
Friday’s game did a lot for individual players as well as help build confidence for the overall team.
“In High School football any win one week builds confidence for the next week,” Coach Paul Maier said. The Wildcats will need that confidence as they try to put another win on the board this week for Homecoming as they host Conference opponent Boonville Pioneers.
The Pioneers are 1-4 after losing 38-14 Saturday to Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis. Gametime for this Friday’s homecoming game is 7 p.m.