MUNCIE — The Mt. Vernon football team just keeps getting better.
With the sectional opener 14 days away, the Marauders’ ever-dominant performance could mean bad news for opponents.
Delta was Class 4A No. 9 Mt. Vernon’s latest victim Friday. The Marauders compiled 415 yards rushing and the varsity defense first unit extended its shutout streak to 14 straight quarters in a 35-0 victory over the Eagles.
With the win in the next-to-last week of the regular season, Mt. Vernon (7-1, 6-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) wrapped up sole possession of its first HHC championship since 2003.
“We like the conference championship, but everybody on this team wants more than that,” said MV fullback Andy Spears, who ran for two touchdowns and 96 yards. “This is good, but this group of seniors, this team isn’t satisfied yet.”
Not since their lone loss of the season — a Week 1 setback to 5A Kokomo — have the Marauders been truly challenged. But a road trip to Delta (5-3, 4-2 HHC) figured to present at least the possibility of a speed bump for the Marauders, who entered the week as the highest scoring team in the state in 4A.
Through the first half, the Eagles kept the Marauders in sight. Tyler Dicks, at the beginning of a 225-yard, three-touchdown night, gave MV a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the first quarter with a four-yard end zone dash.
After the Eagles failed to take advantage of a Mt. Vernon fumble that gave the home team the ball on the MV 23-yard line late in the first quarter — ending with a 29-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left — Spears capped an 11-play drive with a 3-yard scoring run to give the Marauders a 14-0 lead at the break.
In the driving rain, each group had trouble keeping hold of the football. The Eagles had eight fumbles, losing two, and several dropped passes. The Marauders also lost two fumbles, the second of which midway through the third quarter again gave Delta prime field position. But, on first-and-goal at the MV two-yard line, Delta quarterback Cade Jones lost the pigskin. MV recovered and Dicks registered an 85-yard touchdown run on his team’s ensuing drive to make it a 21-0 game, and the Eagles never rallied.
“The weather don’t matter to us,” MV coach Doug Armstrong said. “We put the ball on the ground more than usual, but you’ve got to play football no matter what kind of weather it is.
“We gave them a couple short fields, but the defense came through. I was really proud of the Black Out tonight.”
The Marauders’ defensive stands have become a hallmark. Friday marked the unit’s second shutout in three weeks. Pendleton Heights found the end zone against MV’s varsity defense in the first quarter of Week 5, but since then the Marauder Mob hasn’t allowed a score. In a 54-12 win over Greenfield-Central last week, the Cougars grabbed two late touchdowns against the MV second unit.
Armstrong noted that the MV offense was probably ahead of the team’s defense in terms of operating at full potential early in the year, but the defense has since caught up.
“We missed some pretty good guys on defense last year that graduated,” Armstrong said. “We got good guys to replace them, they just needed experience.”
With the 21-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, Spears (60 yards) and Dicks (57 yards) broke through the Eagles’ line of scrimmage for touchdown runs to put an end to the starters’ night. The Marauders’ JV unit finished out the last half of the fourth quarter.
Anthony Burnett added 93 yards on 20 carries for the Marauders, while Joe Spegal led Delta with 95 yards on 18 rushes, and the Eagles finished with 118 yards on the ground.
Next up for Mt. Vernon is a visit to New Palestine (3-5, 2-4 HHC) to wrap up the regular season. The sectional draw is Sunday evening.
With the conference title well in hand — every other team in the HHC has at least two conference losses — Armstrong told his young men that the battle with the Dragons would be “for fun.”
New Palestine has battled injuries at several positions while deploying a host of quarterbacks and running backs.
There’s been no such fluctuation in the MV lineup, with Burnett, Dicks and Spears chewing up yardage out of a unique offense, and the defense now hitting its stride.
“Everybody knows what we do … we just have to execute,” Spears said of the Marauders’ modified wing-T offense. “It really doesn’t matter what (opponents) do, because we’re so compact. We’ve seen 4-3, 4-4, 5-2 (defensive fronts); one week they had a 6-5 in the box. It’s just about moving them.
“And it’s about passion and who wants it more. We all want it so bad.”