Falling for the Trap: Millers run through Marauders in season opener

Mt. Vernon’s Eli Bridenthal (9) makes a cut to get away from a diving Noblesville’s Cameron Wilson (24) on his way to a touchdown on the first play of the game at Mt. Vernon High School on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter)

FORTVILLE — The Class 4A third-ranked Mt. Vernon Marauders were on pace early to replicate last year’s 42-17 season-opening victory over the 6A Noblesville Millers, but they fell for the trap.

The host Marauders scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter, beginning with quarterback Gehrig Slunaker connecting with Eli Bridenthal for a 60-yard dagger in the game’s first 19 seconds.

But, their 22-7 lead turned into 43 unanswered points as the Millers’ misdirection rushing attack gave the Marauders fits en route to a 57-36 loss Friday night.

“Nasty trap. Credit to them, they lined up and we knew what they were going to do for the most part,” Mt. Vernon head coach Vince Lidy said. “Everything started how we wanted, and we knew if it went to a man-for-man game up front on defense, we’re not built to match them over the course of four quarters. So, we knew we had to try to get them out of their game and jump on them. They ended up coming back and scored on big plays on trap and it killed us.”

Noblesville sophomore running back Logan Shoffner rushed for 355 yards on 20 carries and four touchdowns that spanned 23, 91, 55 and 74 yards, and the Marauders defense had no response.

The Millers (1-0) combined to gain 563 yards on 53 carries to end Mt. Vernon’s hopes at a second consecutive perfect regular-season.

Noblesville’s Alairic Rogers-Walton ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns at 15 and 33 yards, while Brayan Gomez Sanchez finished with 110 yards and a 72-yard touchdown.

“We couldn’t stop it, and we couldn’t match the scoring. We couldn’t outscore them,” Lidy said. “Credit to Noblesville, they executed trap and power and their full house, and they were better than us up front.”

The Marauders (0-1) capitalized in the first quarter, using a fumble recovery by Cole Herman on second-and-8 during Noblesville’s opening offensive series to create a short field.

Slunaker hit Ashden Gentry for a 16-yard touchdown completion, which put Mt. Vernon ahead 15-0 after a successful two-point conversion following the Marauders’ first score and an extra-point on the second. The Marauders’ two-score advantage only burnt 40 seconds off the first-quarter game clock.

However, Shoffner cut the deficit, 15-7, to cap a seven-play drive for the Millers on a 23-yard TD run, and it was just the start for his breakout night.

The Marauders came back to grab a 22-7 lead behind Keagan La Belle’s first rushing touchdown of the season, a 7-yard leaping dive into the end zone with 5:33 left in the first quarter.

La Belle had 20 rushing touchdowns in 2020.

The two teams combined for 42 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, but the Marauders offense went silent the next 24 with two turnover on downs, two punts and an interception by Slunaker.

Slunaker finished with 317 yards passing and three touchdowns. He completed 17 of 29 passing attempts.

“Our offense is our strength, and we scored and we went for two right off the bat, up 8-0, then we got the stop and went up 15-0. We thought we had the momentum. We had it going, but again, they settled in,” Lidy said. “They ended up coming back and the worst nightmare you can have, they lined up and ran trap and power right through us.”

The Marauders running game couldn’t quite keep up, only gaining 83 yards on 30 carries. Mt. Vernon went 7 of 13 on third down and rushed for four first downs compared to 12 passing.

Noblesville had 15 rushing first downs.

Bridenthal led all Mt. Venron receivers with 110 yards on four receptions. Gentry finished with 84 yards on four catches. Burhenn had 43 yards on four receptions.

Noblesville 57, Mt. Vernon 36

NHS (1-0);20;10;20;7;—;57

MV (0-1);22;0;0;14;—;36

First Quarter

MV – Eli Bridenthal 60 yd pass from Gehrig Slunaker (2pt good), 11:41

MV – Ashden Gentry 16 yd pass from Slunaker (Ethan Yeley kick), 11:20

N – Logan Shoffner 23 yd run (Jackson Letourneau kick), 8:21

MV – Keagan La Belle 7 yd run (Yeley kick), 5:33

N – Brayan Gomez Sanchez 72 yd run (Letourneau kick), 5:15

N – Andrew Page 2 yd pass from Connor Meinerding (2pt failed), 0:00

Second Quarter

N – Shoffner 91 yd run (Letourneau kick), 7:19

N – Letourneau 27 yd field goal, 4.6

Third Quarter

N – Alairic Rogers-Walton 15 yd run (Letourneau kick), 9:10

N – Shoffner 55 yd run (Letourneau kick), 7:28

N – Shoffner 74 yd run (Letourneau kick), 1:56

Fourth Quarter

MV- Avery Williams 5 yd run (Yeley kick), 11:24

N – Rogers-Walton 33 yd run (Letourneau kick), 4:59

MV – George Burhenn 5 yd pass from Slunaker (Yeley kick), 1:12