FORTVILLE — Some Mt. Vernon fans may have held their breath at kickoff this Friday after the Marauders’ performance on the field last week, but the team didn’t plan on showing up to their first sectional game to disappoint.

An iron-willed defense paved the way for Mt. Vernon’s stunning 30-14 victory against the Shelbyville Golden Bears in their Sectional 22 opener, pushing Mt. Vernon toward their comeback.

“We’ve kind of relied on our defense a lot for most of the year,” said Mt. Vernon Assistant Coach Kevin Howard. “We probably played our best defensive game we have all season tonight. We’re just going to try and clean up a few mistakes and play good defense next week and see if we can’t make it a ball game.”

After Shelbyville returned the starting kickoff, they quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the Marauders defense. The Marauders forced an early punt, returning it at the 50-yard line and making short work of the Golden Bears defense.

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Mt. Vernon’s Quarterback Tyson Harley connected with receiver Adam Lackey with a 50-yard touchdown pass, but a messy snap during the extra-point attempt put the score at 6-0 Marauders with 9 minutes left in the first quarter.

On the Golden Bears’ second possession, Mt. Vernon’s defense resumed with stopping the team’s rush attempts in their tracks. With Shelbyville successfully driven backward, Mt. Vernon’s strong defensive efforts culminated in an interception caught by Marauders linebacker Connor Price.

Mt. Vernon quickly pushed up the field, but the Golden Bears’ defense prevented them from getting into the end zone, so Trevor Bond followed up with a 20-yard field goal. The score was 9-0 Marauders with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

It was during their third possession when the Golden Bears seemed to find a crack in Mt. Vernon’s defense. Shelbyville steadily made their way up the field through a series of short-pass completions, ending the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Golden Bears wide receiver Luke Reed.

Mt. Vernon still led 9-7 as 1:32 remained in the first quarter.

Mt. Vernon successfully advanced their lead on their next possession. Pushing up the field, Harley completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Braxton Trittipo, making the score 16-7 Marauders at the end of the first quarter.

Mt. Vernon’s defense opened up the second quarter strong, wrapping up Shelbyville’s passing game. But the Golden Bears regained momentum; Shelbyville running back Damon Lux powered through Mt. Vernon’s defense with a series of rushing attacks, carrying the team up the field. His efforts eventually led to him scoring a 24 yard touchdown rush, making the score 16-14 Marauders with 3:18 left in the half.

Mt. Vernon hit back hard before the end of the second quarter. With a few successful rush attempts and short passes, the Marauders steadily made their way toward another touchdown.

They were rewarded for their well-paced offensive drive; Marauders receiver Max Burhenn snagged a 20-yard touchdown pass before the end of the half, increasing their lead to 23-14.

Both teams’ defensive players displayed a gritty resolve at the start of the second half. Neither team scored throughout the entire third quarter. Shelbyville gradually found openings in Mt. Vernon’s defensive line, and the Golden Bears finally reached scoring range. But Mt. Vernon’s defense brought their drive to an abrupt stop. When the Golden Bears desperately attempted to score on fourth down, a sack by Marauders linebacker Dylan Cole caused a turnover on downs, giving Mt. Vernon possession as the game began the fourth quarter.

Both the Golden Bears and the Marauders defense maintained their tenacity throughout the final quarter. Through most of the fourth quarter, neither team scored as the teams took turns punting the ball to one another.

Suddenly, a lightning fast interception snapped out of the air by defensive lineman PJ Sterrett gave the Marauders the edge they needed to break the game’s scoring hiatus.

With a 22-yard touchdown pass completed to Trittipo, Mt. Vernon advanced their lead, making it 30-14, 1:37 remaining in the game. With Shelbyville unable to close the gap in the short time remaining, Mt. Vernon was able to secure the victory.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us next week,” said Mt. Vernon head coach Neil Kazmierczak. “We’ll really have to step up on both sides of the ball.

“But we’ve got guys that always play hard and fly to the football,” he added. “I think we can compete with anybody if we play the way we did tonight.”

Mt. Vernon will go on the road next Friday to take on Greenwood in their second sectional game.