By Steven Kochersperger
The Mount Vernon Wildcat football team traveled to Gibson Southern High School for the opening game of the football sectional Friday night. This was the first trip to Jewell Memorial field at Gibson Southern for the Wildcats since the opening game of the 2000 season. That game 12 years ago ended with a Wildcat win.
But this game Friday night would not bring the same magic for the Cats as the Titans walked away victorious 49-21.
It was a game of momentum shifts that ended in a high scoring affair. Both teams came ready to play and both offenses were able to do what they planned to do. That’s something that cannot be said about the defensive efforts though. The Wildcats gave it all they had but were not able to keep the momentum in the game and that made all the difference Friday night.
“All in all I’m pleased with this team’s effort,” Mount Vernon coach Paul Maier said. “I’m pleased with how they played. The result wasn’t there but just the fact that they gave a great effort was good to see.”
It had been nine quarters since the Mount Vernon offense last scored. After being shut out their final two games of the season, the offense came into Gibson Southern determined to get on the board first. And it didn’t take long for that to happen Friday night.
The Wildcats had the opening possession of the game and with the first play from scrimmage senior running back Michael Rynkiewich ran for 11 yards and the first down. Facing a third and six the Wildcats kept marching up field with a little trickery as River VanZant took the reverse play for another first down. It was just a few plays later that the Mount Vernon offense broke their scoreless streak and scored the first points of the game. Freshman Quarterback Riley Snodgrass scrambled, found an opening, and ran 55 yards for the touchdown putting the Cats up 7-0.
The Titans would answer just a few minutes later. With 6:45 left in the opening quarter Titan wideout Spencer Schmitt caught a touchdown pass tying the game at 7-7.
But Mount Vernon would come back and have an answer of their own. The Wildcats took advantage of their running game and took a slow methodical drive upfield to end the opening quarter. And just four seconds into the second quarter, Rynkiewich ran from the 2-yard line for his first touchdown of the game. And with the score 14-7 in favor of the Wildcats, the momentum was clearly on Mount Vernon’s side.
But that momentum would quickly change. Gibson Southern scored to tie the game at 14-14 and then recovered an onside kick that seemed to catch Mount Vernon off-guard. And with great field position the Titans were able to take advantage and get their first lead of the game just a minute later with a touchdown from the 2-yard line. The Titans would take that momentum and score one more touchdown in the second quarter to lead 29-14 at the half.
“I think we blinked a little when they did the onside kick,” Maier said. “That was a pivotal moment and we let down for just a little bit. That put us down two scores.”
Gibson Southern came out of halftime with a drive that ended in a 29-yard touchdown pass to Titan David Anguish. Mount Vernon would answer with a score of their own less than two minutes later as Michael Rynkiewich ran 57 yards for his second touchdown making the score 36-21.
That’s the closest the Wildcats would come to the Titans as Gibson Southern continued to trade touchdowns in the third quarter going ahead 42-21 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
“When you are down two and you are trading scores that’s not a good position to be in,” Maier lamented after the game.
Gibson Southern scored one more time in the final quarter to put the game away and advanced to the second round of sectional play with the 49-21 win. With the loss the Wildcats ended their season with a disappointing 2-8 record.
And the disappointment and emotion showed as the Wildcat seniors realized it would be their final High School football game. In an emotional scene on the field after the game those seniors lined up and said their farewells to their teammates and coaches. Its something coach Maier says is never easy.
“When you work with kids you get to know them really well and get really close with them. That last game, whenever it comes, always stinks,” Maier said. And while those seniors will be missed, the Wildcats are looking towards the future with excitement and optimism.
“We return a ton of very good key players next year,” Maier said. “We’re excited about the possibilities.”
By Steven Kochersperger
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