GREENFIELD — Mike Kirschner’s Mt. Vernon Marauders improved to 3-0, but he wasn’t happy.
Travis Nolting’s Greenfield-Central Cougars dropped to 0-3.
He may not have been happy, either, but considering the newness to the program under the first-year head coach’s direction and the youth of the football team, he saw a lot to build on in Friday’s 32-8 loss to Mt. Vernon at Clayton Myers Field.
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It was the first Hoosier Heritage Conference contest for the Hancock County rivals separated by less than 10 miles.
“I’m not happy at all. The penalties were awful. Our focus was awful,” Kirschner said. “Their kids played really hard and did a nice job and coach (Nolting) does a great job with them. He should be proud of how hard his kids played.”
Kirschner was mostly displeased with his team’s penalties. The Marauders had five false starts in the first half, including one that negated a touchdown on their opening drive.
They had one unsportsmanlike penalty in each half and three second-half holding infractions.
“I thought, defensively, we played really well until the last drive … and we did some things on special teams, but our penalties were horrendous,” Kirschner, in his second year with the Marauders and 17th overall as a head coach, said. “Most of them were legit. We tell them in practice don’t do it and they do it (tonight). Until they want to focus mentally on how to play the game the correct way, it’s not going to change. That’s the bottom line. Right now it’s a mental focus problem for us.”
The Marauders led 18-0 at the half. After settling for an AJ Swingle 35-yard field goal on their opening possessions, they scored touchdowns on two out of the next three offensive series.
Both scores were aided by great field position. They started on the Cougars 26 and 30, respectively.
On its first drive, Greenfield-Central went for it on fourth and short from its own 26. Fullback Bradon Nelson was stuffed short at the G-C 26.
Shaun Shipley, who shared quarterback duties with Gehrig Slunaker, scored both six-pointers for the Marauders. After a pair of Slunaker passes, including one to Shipley for nine yards, the Marauders used Shipley as the quarterback at the goal line and he scored on a 1-yard run to make it 10-0 with 4:18 left in the first quarter.
The second short series was set up by an interception by Mt. Vernon’s senior defensive back Austin Lewis. He picked off a Lance McKee attempt and went 40 yards, from his own 30 to the Cougar 30.
Shipley scored on a 4-yard run and Ashden Gentry ran in the two-point conversion for an 18-0 advantage.
“We wanted to score first,” Kirschner said. “We won the coin toss and took the ball with the intent of hoping to score first because their (wishbone) offense is predicated on controlling the clock and not letting you have the ball.
“By getting up 10 real quick, it didn’t change what they did, but it gave us a cushion in knowing what we could or couldn’t do in some respects.”
The Marauders took a 25-0 lead on Slunaker’s one-yard run on their first possession of the third quarter.
Gentry added a fourth-quarter touchdown on a 47-yard punt return.
The Cougars played without McKee for a series in the first half and much of the second half.
Nolting liked what he saw of freshman quarterback Brodie Mayberry and thought his defense had its best performance after going up against a pair of ranked Class 5A schools to start the season.
“I say this every week, but we’re really young,” Nolting said. “In the second half (junior quarterback Lance McKee) took a shot and he was out and freshman Brodie Mayberry did a pretty good job managing the offense, got some yards and scored a touchdown.
“We’re going to keep working and keep climbing up Mt. Everest. That’s what we have to keep doing. Kids are learning how to compete. This was a better opponent for us to compete against. They’re probably in year two of their rebuild and we’re just in the baby stages in ours. We’ve got a lot of young talent to work with and I’m excited to be working with the next three and four years.”
The Cougars scoring drive was impressive.
Mayberry completed a 24-yard pass to Gavin Rose on a third-and-12 from the 17. Freshman running back Brayden Herrell followed with a 30-yard run down to the 29. Mayberry ran it in from there and added the two-point conversion.
Mt. Vernon has another county and conference rival up next, traveling to Class 5A No. 1 New Palestine. Greenfield-Central will have its first road game, taking on Pendleton Heights.