By Steven Kochersperger
Friday night’s game between the Mount Vernon Wildcats and visiting Mater Dei Wildcats brought with it a lot of hype and excitement. On one hand you have a hard working Mount Vernon team that is trying to find themselves and get better each week before sectionals arrive in mid October. On the other hand you have the Mater Dei Wildcats, state champion runner ups last season, undefeated this season and ranked number 2 in the latest 2A state poll.
And everyone who was in attendance Friday night saw just how tough an opponent Mater Dei can be as they beat the Mount Vernon Wildcats at home 48-10.
“You should be excited to play this kind of game,” Mount Vernon head coach Paul Maier said after the game. “You should be fired up to play this kind of game and this kind of team.”
All the excitement and fire seem to deflate just a few minutes of the game as Mater Dei jumped up early and often scoring twice in just the first four plays they ran on offense. After the game started off with the jitters evident by both teams trading penalties, the visiting Wildcats quarterback Jace Harz threw a 32-yard pass on their very first possession of the game. The very next play, Mater Dei scored their first touchdown of the night as running back Nolan Goebel ran to the endz one putting Mater Dei ahead early 7-0. Just one minute later in the game the visiting Wildcats scored again as Jace Harz threw a touchdown pass to wideout Alex Springer making the score 14-0 at the 8:51 mark in the first quarter.
Nothing seemed to go right for Mount Vernon in the first quarter and first half of play. More than anything the Wildcats looked to lack focus early on, something Coach Maier continues to see as an area that must be improved in the final games of the season.
“We need to have better effort and be more focused at the beginning of the game,” Maier said.
The lack of effort and focus made for a frustrating first quarter as Mount Vernon found themselves trailing 34-0 going into the second quarter of play.
Mount Vernon began to show some signs of life offensively in the second quarter, moving the ball up field. The drive was marked by an 11-yard pass from Mount Vernon quarterback River VanZant to tight end Brian Koch putting the Cats in scoring position.
But two plays later the Mater Dei defense stopped all that momentum and intercepted VanZant at the 3-yard line. Mater Dei would drive the length of the field and score yet again going ahead 41-0 at halftime.
After finding themselves down in the third quarter 48-0, Mount Vernon found some fight in them as Ethan VanZant lead the Cats down field, moving the chains and gaining some much needed confidence.
Facing a fourth-and-4 on the 49 yard line, VanZant ran to the 42 giving the home Wildcats a much needed first down. VanZant then threw to Craig Dick for 13 yards setting the Wildcats up in scoring position once again. This time Mount Vernon would make sure they would get on the board as VanZant ran from 11 yards out on a misdirection play, making the score 48-7 Mater Dei.
Trailing by a huge margin in the final quarter the Mount Vernon Wildcats came out and continued to fight putting in the young players letting them gain valuable experience and playing time. Their performance impressed coach Maier and showed how bright the future can be for the Cats.
“At the end of the game the younger guys really came out and played hard,” Maier said. “I’m really pleased with their efforts.”
That fourth quarter was marked by the Wildcat defense stopping Mater Dei on a 4th and 1 play giving Mount Vernon the ball back with 9:02 left in the game. One of the young Cats that impressed and made plays was freshman quarterback Kaleb Grabert.
On a fourth- and-6 play, Grabert handed it to freshman running back Jim Peck on a reverse picking up a first down and placing the Wildcats back in scoring position. Grabert then ran to the 15 yard line setting up a 24 yard field goal by Mount Vernon kicker Michael Cannato making the score 48-10. But time would run out on the home Cats as they lost their fifth game of the season and second in as many weeks.
With Sectionals just a few weeks away, Maier feels that this kind of game can actually help his team gain valuable experience and help them grow as a team.
“We play Mater Dei because we know they are gonna be good,” Maier said. “It can do nothing but make us better.”
The Wildcats finish the regular season with a road game this Friday at Princeton and then at home October 12 against Big 8 Conference opponent Jasper Wildcats. The first sectional game is slated for October 19.
Before the game the Mount Vernon Wildcats hosted the Indianapolis Colts Friday Night Football tour. Colts cheerleaders were on hand to sign autographs and many fans came out to see the Colts in motion traveling museum and take the Colts quarterback challenge. Also before the game the Colts presented the Mount Vernon football and cheerleading programs checks in the amount of $500 each.
By Steven Kochersperger
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