NEW PALESTINE — Added motivation wasn’t exactly a necessity on Tuesday night, but Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Mayhew uncovered some.
Thumbing through the Marauders past Hoosier Heritage Conference championship seasons, Mayhew’s discovered an interesting fact, one that defined his team’s purpose as they faced rival New Palestine.
“I went back and looked at the records. No Mt. Vernon team before us had finished undefeated in conference except for 1998,” Mayhew said. “Most of these guys were just being born back then, so they had a great opportunity tonight. We wanted to be undefeated.”
The Marauders (11-2) achieved their goal, defeating the Dragons (8-6, 4-2 HHC) 2-1 to clinch the conference championship outright with a perfect 7-0 record.
Last year, the Marauders shared the HHC with New Palestine, who beat Mt. Vernon in the regular-season on penalty kicks, as both programs tied in the standings at 6-1.
“That was rough last year, losing on penalty kicks. We want to win fair and square,” Mt. Vernon junior Timmy Clone remarked on the team’s focus. “No penalties.”
Clone lived by his words, supplying both goals in the first half while the defense clamped down through most of the match’s 68 minutes.
The match, which originally began on Aug. 30 before being postponed due to severe storms, started with 12 minutes expired. Despite the 28 day delay, the Marauders picked right up where they left off.
“We wanted to get out and get one early. We’d moved the ball around pretty well, and looking at the 12 minutes we played them before, we knew where some channels were where we could get in,” Mayhew said. “We had a couple of great through balls and Timmy put them both away.”
Similar to how the Marauders avenged their 2015 regular-season loss in last year’s sectional title game with a 3-0 win, Mt. Vernon came out firing.
The Marauders pressed the Dragons hard, recording 16 shots and nine shots on goal with four in the first half.
Carson Jones had the first near-goal with a header that sail wide off a perfectly placed corner kick from Jarret Whitehouse with 22:38 left in the first half.
A minute later, Clone found the net on a three-touch conversion. Jeffery Boxberger laced a free kick from 45 yards out into the box where Matt Schafer collected the ball and shot. The ricocheted save by Adam Hunt fell in front of Clone, who tapped it in untouched.
Clones second goal unfolded with a through ball from Whitehouse with 8:25 left in the first half. Chasing down the ball and winning possession, Clone sprinted toward the net and slid a hard shot in the back of the net past a diving Hunt.
“That’s just what I do. It was a work hard play, going for the ball. It worked out,” said Clone, who has nine goals on the year. “They had a communication error, and I finished it.”
The defense closed out the game, and nearly put together a shutout before Levi Miller buried a header off a James Pridgen corner kick for his 12th goal this year to cut the deficit 2-1.
Hunt had eight saves for the Dragons while Mt. Vernon’s Josh Powell touched just one of New Palestine’s three shots on goal. The defenders up front handled the rest.
“The rich tradition of the rivalry, no matter when you play them or how many times, everyone is going to be fired up,” New Palestine head coach Justin Sass said. “We made some key mistakes in the first half that cost us the game, but we learn from it and we get better.”
Coming off a 16-win sectional championship campaign in 2015, the Marauders have only lost two matches this season to Noblesville 2-1 and 2-0 against Hamilton Southeastern this month.
The Marauders, said Clone, have learned from those setbacks and are applying their knowledge. They plan to do the same with their recent win and third straight.
The Dragons and Mt. Vernon will meet in the opening round of the New Palestine Sectional on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.
“Really it’s not about winning championships. It’s all about coming together as a team,” Clone said. “It’s about connecting passes, moving together and being the best we can be. After that championships happen.”
Mt. Vernon 2, New Palestine 1
MVHS (11-2, 7-0 HHC);2;0;—;2
NPHS (8-6, 4-2 HHC);0;1;—;1
MV: Timmy Clone 2 goals; Matt Schafer 1 assist; Jarret Whitehouse 1 assist.
NP: Levi Miller 1 goal; James Pridgen 1 assist; Adam Hunt 8 saves