FORTVILLE — Heading into the season, Mt. Vernon football coach Neil Kazmierczak thought he would need to rely on his special teams and defense to support his young offense.
If Friday’s opening night 17-13 victory against Hamilton Heights is any indication, Kazmierczak is prophetic.
The Marauder defense was called on early to make a stop after a tipped interception gave the visiting Huskies the ball on the Marauder ten-yard line.
The defense held the Huskies and gave the ball back to their offense after a four down stand.
Unfortunately, the tie did not last long as newly-named starting quarterback Tyson Harley threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown by Hamilton Heights sophomore cornerback Brent Pennington.
“I wasn’t worried about Tyson,” Kazmierczak said. “He’s a young quarterback and it’s normal to struggle a bit in your first start. I just made sure to tell him ‘good play’ after his first solid throw.”
After his first quarter struggles, Harley made numerous key plays to propel the Marauders to victory. Facing a fourth-and-4 in the second quarter, Harley completed for a first down after a high shotgun snap and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass on the next play to give the Marauders a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish.
He added a 47-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Trittipo in the third quarter to push the lead to 17-7.
Harley would finish the game 21-for-34 for 225 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
“(Hamilton Heights) is a big physical team up front and they were kind of daring us to throw,” Kazmierczak said. “I’d dare the other team to throw with a young QB, too. But Tyson just stayed calm and made some big plays.”
The Marauders’ defense made sure that 17 points was enough for victory by only giving up an unofficial total 125 yards. That number would have been much lower without a nice run and catch by Michael Cross of Hamilton Heights that went for 62 yards to set up the only Husky touchdown of the game, a one-yard plunge by running back Blake Webel.
“Our defense was solid tonight,” Kazmierczak said as his team was singing the fight song on the sideline. “When they are playing that well it takes pressure off the offense, and I think that showed as the game went on.”
Mt. Vernon unveiled its new artificial turf field Friday night as their record jumped to 1-0.
At their next home game, a new scoreboard will be unveiled. They will have to wait three weeks for that though, as a three-game road trip awaits, starting with a visit to the Marion Giants next Friday.