Once again, Mt. Vernon is off to a scorching start. And once again, it is faced with doubts as to whether it can finish strong, something the program has struggled to do in the past decade.
Recent history isn’t on MV’s side. Back in 2009, the black-and-gold started 4-1 and finished 2-4. The next year, a 5-1 launch was coupled with a 0-4 conclusion. And last season in Doug Armstrong’s initial campaign in Fortville, his Marauders began 4-1, only to limp to the end of the season with a 1-5 mark.
A rededicated emphasis on weight training and conditioning commenced days after the program’s 31-7 loss to Pendleton Heights in the first-round of sectional play last Oct.21.
So far, MV’s hard work has paid off. Aside from a season-opening overtime setback to Kokomo, the Marauders handled their next three opponents (Marion, Yorktown and Rushville) by a combined 149-50.
Those blowout victories have been achieved by utilizing a brutalizing ground game, as MV (3-1, 2-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) has rushed for 320, 396 and 443 yards in those three contests.
And while running backs Anthony Burnett (county-best 601 yards, 10 rushing TDs) and Tyler Dicks (450 yards, eight rushing TDs) attain the notoriety, it’s the consistency along Mt. Vernon’s offensive line that has Burnett and Dicks running through open holes, rather than having to create on their own.
Nevertheless, starting left tackle Nick Smoot prefers to defer credit to the team’s ball carriers.
“As a line, with the great backs that we have, if we get our body in front of (defenders) and plow over them,” said Smoot after MV’s win over Rushville Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, “our backs will make moves and they’ll score.”
The black-and-gold’s ground supremacy will face perhaps the stiffest test it has received all season Friday against an Arabian defense that’s giving up an average of 16 points per game.
However, MV can take solace in the fact that its rivals from New Palestine rushed for 200 first-half yards against Pendleton (3-1, 1-1 HHC) in Week 3, though the Dragons were undone by four turnovers en route to a 43-13 defeat.