Head coach: Aaron Britt, 5th season.
2012: 12-7-2. HHC champ, sectional champ, regional runner-up to Center Grove.
Outlook: Though the most dangerous scoring combination in Hancock County is now a one-man show, the defending Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional champions retain the talent and depth to be considered the area’s top team entering the 2013 season.
The Marauders return Mouhamed Konate, a senior forward who notched a single-season program-best 24 goals in 2012, twice the number of the county’s next highest total. Konate has 49 goals for his career, 16 short of Eric Myers’ MV record.
Division I programs are hot on Konate’s trail, with IUPUI monitoring his progress very closely. The Jaguars are coached by Isang Jacob, who was born in Africa, same as Konate. (Jacob is Nigerian; Konate hails from Senegal).
“He’s definitely going to play in college, it’s just a matter of where. Isang Jacob at IUPUI is trying to build a really strong program and has done a really good job of recruiting local talent and keeping some kids here, which isn’t always easy to do. He’s been after him,” said Mt. Vernon coach Aaron Britt, who mentioned that Bowling Green State and Western Michigan are among other D1 schools to show interest in Konate.
“I think it’s a pretty good fit. (Jacob) is African and made the move here, so there are some similarities in background. Mouhamed’s only been here five years, so … it’s not a special need, but it’s something that takes some understanding and a coach needs to understand — just like a teacher does.”
An anticipated modification for Britt’s squad in 2013 was playing without all-county midfielder CJ Coleman, whose blossoming basketball career will prevent him from suiting up on the pitch.
Fittingly, Konate and Coleman are presently without college destinations because both favored additional exposure in front of recruiters rather than to make an early commitment. Coleman’s strategy has paid off, and he now holds eight Division I basketball scholarship offers. The drawback is the rising senior point guard must now take the fall to visit college campuses, trim his list of schools and most importantly, stay healthy.
“I’ve known that it was probably going to happen, and it was always a function of his commitment status. He had a very good summer of basketball, and I support him there too. I’m not upset at all,” Britt said of Coleman. “Obviously, I would love for him to be here, but it is what’s best for him. There’s some risk for injury, and he’s got $80,000 or more riding on a commitment that’s going to happen — it’s just a matter of when and where.”
Replacing Coleman — who led the area with 11 assists in 2012 — will be a group effort, and Britt cited seniors Shane DeWael, Aaron Gilpin and Jacob Luke, as well as juniors Logan Justus — who takes the place of the graduated Corban Hartley in goal — and Matt Powell as individuals who were impressive over the summer. Senior Rhyan Woods, an all-county defender last fall, will see some time in a midfield role, too.
Britt added that the team will be without senior defender Kyle Pruitt, who suffered an ACL injury near the end of the spring club season.
Despite the loss of Coleman and the graduation of five 2012 seniors, the Marauders expect to be back where their season ended last year, a 1-0 regional final defeat to eventual 2A state runner-up Center Grove.
“I’m still really excited about this team because there’s a lot here. There’s a lot of depth, a lot of quality across the board. You have the guys I expect to excel and have prominent roles on the team,” Britt offered. “What was really surprising to me was how much improvement I saw from a number of people that will be with the varsity squad this year. When I started 14 years ago, it was amazing how big the chasm was between our No. 1 and No. 2 guys and our last guy. To watch that gap close over the years has been pretty amazing.”
Mt. Vernon begins its season Tuesday at home vs. Richmond.