FORTVILLE — Jordan Miller threw only four passes Saturday, but it might as well have been 40.
The Mt. Vernon quarterback got the rare opportunity to throw the ball out of the Marauders’ run-heavy offense Saturday against Shelbyville, and he took full advantage in a 42-0 victory.
One week after the Marauders (5-1, 4-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) rushed for 513 yards while Miller didn’t attempt a single pass in a 58-26 win over Pendleton Heights, the senior signal-caller completed 4-of-4 attempts against Shelbyville (2-4, 2-2 HHC), with each pass a key part of MV touchdown drives.
Entering the game, Miller had completed for 6-of-12 passes for 145 yards. He threw for 131 yards against a Golden Bears’ defense that held the Marauders to a season-low 170 yards on the ground and kept MV out of the end zone on its first three possessions.
“Shelbyville’s a very big physical team and they showed that at times,” MV coach Doug Armstrong said.
Anthony Burnett, the state’s 12th-leading rusher after Week 5 with 796 yards, was held to 66 yards on 18 carries Saturday in the HHC contest that was postponed Friday by rain. But, with neither team scoring in the first quarter, Miller connected with Burnett on two passes for 57 yards as the Marauders notched three second-quarter touchdowns to take a 21-0 halftime advantage. Miller also a threw a 21-yard completion in the first half to wingback Tyler Dicks to set up a touchdown.
Fullback Andy Spears (one-yard touchdown run), Dicks (10-yard touchdown run) and Burnett (10-yard run) punctuated the Marauders’ second-quarter scoring drives.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Miller said of being able to throw the football around a little. “We didn’t really have to pass — we’ve got two great backs — but it was nice.”
On the Marauders’ opening drive of the fourth quarter — with MV ahead 28-0 following a Dicks 23-yard touchdown run in the third quarter — Miller registered his third touchdown pass of the season, finding tight end Dan Werner for a 53-yard strike to put the game away at 35-0. Linebacker Cody Baker completed the blowout for the Marauders with an 18-yard fumble return touchdown.
The Golden Bears’ fumble was one of five turnovers by the visitors; quarterback Jake Laker threw four interceptions, including three in the first half, to negate whatever traction Shelbyville might have been able to gain with its solid run defense. (The Golden Bears also had three punts that totaled 29 yards).
“We were basically playing our base defense with a couple automatic blitzes we run,” Armstrong said. “Fortunately we had a rush on (Laker) and were able to step in front of some throws.”
Burnett, Dicks, Miller (also the team’s starting safety) and Alec Lohman had the interceptions.
Armstrong said prior to the game that while he respected Shelbyville’s run stoppage, he believed the Golden Bears were vulnerable in the secondary. The second-year coach was correct. And he had complete faith that Miller would make the necessary throws.
“Actually, I thought we would have passed more this season than we have,” Armstrong said. “It’s just the way it’s worked out, but Jordan did a good job passing (today). It’s definitely something we feel like we can do if we have to.”
With Burnett, Dicks and Kameryn Risper having each rushed for over 200 yards in at least one game this season — and the Marauders winning on the scoreboard — Miller has been content to handoff, then often serving to deliver a crucial block, his individual passing stats be damned.
“We work together as a team, get better as a team and that’s why we win,” Miller said. “If we need to pass, we can get it done. But we’ve got a great line, great backs that can run the ball too.”
Armstrong believes Miller’s attitude is indicative of the entire locker room.
“Jordan has done a great job of being unselfish, but that’s a team trademark,” he said. “Everybody on this team is willing to block for each other and understand that the team comes first. And Jordan knows his time will come, and it kind of came tonight.”
It was Dicks’ turn to lead the team in rushing this week. The senior gained 83 yards on nine carries after being limited to one carry against Pendleton Heights because of a groin injury. His lower body was healthy Saturday, but he took a knock on his thumb against Shebyville.
“He’s got another thing to deal with, but Tyler’s a tough-minded kid, so he’ll be okay,” Armstrong said.
Laker, the Golden Bears’ junior quarterback, finished 2-for-9 for 12 yards while rushing for a team-high 64 yards on 14 carries. Shelbyville totaled 161 yards of offense as Mt. Vernon gave the other gold-and-black its first shutout loss since Oct. 21, 2005.
Mt. Vernon, which has won five straight games following a season-opening 28-21 overtime loss to 5A Kokomo, now turns its attention to Greenfield-Central — and the traveling conference trophy helmet. The helmet began the season with New Palestine, which lost it to Pendleton Heights, which lost it to Shelbyville, which lost it to the Cougars (3-3, 2-2 HHC).
“That would be a great honor for us,” Miller said. “We want it bad, so we’re going to go after it.”
Ironically, if the Marauders grab the old-school helmet Friday from G-C, then defeat Delta in Week 8, New Palestine will have a chance to finish the season with the trophy when MV and the Dragons meet in Week 9.
The Marauders, of course, aren’t looking that far ahead.
“I’ve seen Greenfield on film and I know they’re very athletic in the backfield — very athletic,” Armstrong said of the Cougars, who defeated Rushville 33-22 Saturday. “They have some good size up front, they run a good scheme. Roger (Dodson)’s a good coach. It’s a handful, so we’re going to get to work on them and hopefully have a really good week of practice.”
The Marauders are also in the lead for the HHC championship, which is separate from the traveling trophy. With Pendleton Heights’ win over Delta Friday, Mt. Vernon ended the weekend as the only conference undefeated, ahead of the Eagles (4-2, 3-1 HHC). Two-time defending champ New Palestine dropped to 2-4 on the year and 1-3 in the HHC with a loss to Yorktown Saturday.
Notes: Mt. Vernon earned its first shutout since blanking New Castle 48-0 in the sectional-opener, Oct. 23, 2009. ... The Marauders’ last 5-1 start was 2010. They lost their final four games to end the season. MV beat Shelbyville 52-13 in Week 6 of that campaign, then lost to Greenfield-Central 14-6 the following week to begin the slide. ... Armstrong, the former New Palestine head coach, improved to 62-62 overall in 12 years of coaching. … MV’s previous season-low rushing total was 179 yards against Kokomo.
Mount Vernon 42, Shelbyville 0
SH (2-4, 2-2 HHC) 0 0 0 0 — 0
MV (5-1, 4-0 HHC) 0 21 7 14 — 42
MV—Spears, 1-yard run (Justus kick), 9:43
MV—Dicks, 10-yard run (Justus kick), 6:15
MV—Burnett, 10-yard run (Justus kick), 3:13
MV—Dicks, 23-yard run (Justus kick), 10:18
MV—Werner, 53-yard pass from Miller (Justus kick), 9:45
MV—Baker, 18-yard fumble return (Justus kick), 4:57
First downs 7 9
Rushes-yards 42-149 43-170
Passing yards 12 131
Comp-Att-Int 2-9-4 4-4-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 9-55 6-50
Rushing: Laker 14-64, Price 11-31, Uhls 9-41, Seaborn 7-14, Hasecuster 1-(-1) (SH); Dicks 9-83, Burnett 18-66, Risper 4-14, Spears 5-8, Robertson 3-2, Clevenger 2-2, Kohman 1-(-3), Miller 1-(-2) (MV).
Passing: Laker 2-9-12 (SH); Miller 4-4-131 (MV).
Receiving: B. Orem 1-11, Price 1-1 (SH); Burnett 2-57, Dicks 1-21, Werner 1-53 (MV).