FORTVILLE — The field conditions were perfect for the Mt. Vernon Marauders to get back to their roots on Friday night.
Powered by a combined four rushing touchdowns from juniors Eric Jones and Zac Montgomery, the Marauders bulldozed the New Castle Trojans 42-13 to win their third straight.
“We have good runners and our run blocking was probably the best it’s been all year,” Mt. Vernon head coach Doug Armstrong said. “We like to run. We like to be two dimensional, but we still like to run.”
Junior Cole Van Slyke returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns as the Marauders celebrated Senior Night on a soggy and muddy field by winning their fourth straight against New Castle.
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“We’re pleased with our improvement. We’ve worked hard to correct our weaknesses and get better every week,” Armstrong remarked on the team’s 0-2 start turned to 4-3. “So far we have achieved that.”
The Marauders were efficient in all facets, scoring on four of eight possessions. The defense forced three turnovers with a forced fumble and Van Slyke’s two pick-six scores.
His first went for 40 yards late in the second quarter to put Mt. Vernon ahead 21-7. His final dagger unfolded early in the fourth quarter off a third-down pass attempt by New Castle’s Niah Williamson.
“He replaced an offensive touchdown we should have had on the first, and the second one was really an athletic play by a pretty athletic kid,” Armstrong said.
The Marauders (4-3, 4-1 HHC) defense was stout throughout, limiting the Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Trojans (3-4, 2-3 HHC) to three first-half first downs and five overall before Mt. Vernon unloaded it’s bench in the fourth quarter.
Williamson, a junior, entered the game as the Trojans’ passing leader with 682 yards and seven touchdowns, but he found minimal success. He completed 5 of 12 attempts for 57 yards and two picks.
New Castle’s lone scoring drive against Mt. Vernon’s starters materialized in the first half on a nine-play drive that covered 58 yards in 4:23.
Williamson capped the series with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone to cut the Marauders’ lead to 14-7.
New Castle wouldn’t get any closer as Mt. Vernon’s rushing attack accounted for 14 first downs and scoring runs from Montgomery measuring 29, 25 and 2 yards.
Jones piled up 176 yards on 20 carries and a rushing touchdown. His longest run was 39 yards. Montgomery rushed for 131 yards on 21 carries. He completed 4 of 9 passes for 21 yards, but the Marauders kept their focus between the tackles.
“We knew it was going to be rainy and wet, so we wanted to run the ball more,” Montgomery said. “I’m proud of our guys to come out here and run it down their throats.”
The Marauders longest drive spanned 77 yards on their first possession. Montgomery set the tone for the rest of the night, breaking multiple tackle en route to a 29-yard touchdown.
“The offensive line is doing great,” Montgomery said. “We struggled a bit in the early part of the season, but I think the offense has really turned it around.”
Prior to the game, the Marauders’ seniors honored Kendra Lewin by simultaneously releasing purple balloons into the sky. Lewin would have been a senior this year, but she was taken far too soon after losing a nearly four-year battle with cancer.
Students and the administration collected money in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which granted Lewin’s wish of meeting Justin Beiber.
The players wore purple socks in her honor.