Don’t Blink: Marauders score quickly, often in homecoming win over Arabians

Mt. Vernon’s Travon Hegler (30) avoids a diving Pendleton Heights’ Clinton Miller (11) on his way to the first touchdown of the game at Mt. Vernon High School on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter) Rob Baker

FORTVILLE — It can be best described as an offense that escalates quickly.

From deep in their own territory to the black and gold end zones of Hancock Health Field, Class 4A No. 7 Mt. Vernon isn’t taking long to get from Point A to Point B.

On Homecoming Night against Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Pendleton Heights, the Marauders won 43-0.

They scored six touchdowns.

The longest drive was four plays.

The longest drive, time wise, was 1:17.

Whether from their own 16, 30 or 42, the Marauders were putting together big play after big play in their rout of the Arabians.

“Our skill kids can run and we’ve got pretty good depth,” Mt. Vernon first-year head coach Vince Lidy said. “If we can get the ball in space, we like our chances. In order to do that we have to pass pro and be able to run the ball, as well.

“I think we have enough offensive players that if you take somebody away, these other guys want the ball. Tonight you saw the ball sprinkled around and the running backs, we’ve got a great 1-2 punch, they are both fast.”

Senior running back Travon Hegler started the scoring late in the first half. He had a pair of touchdown runs, one of 30, to start the scoring, and one from 70 to end it.

Senior running back Keagan La Belle had a pair of scores, one from 5-yards out and another from 54.

Hegler finished with four carries for 111 yards. La Belle had eight tries for 109.

In the air, senior quarterback Gehrig Slunaker, the Homecoming King, went 6 of 8 for 139 yards and one touchdown, all in the first half. Senior Ashden Gentry caught a touchdown pass and ran for another. He had four catches for 112 yards and one rush for 20. Receiver George Burhenn had a pair of catches for 27 yards and grabbed a two-point conversion.

As quickly as the offense was on and off the field for most of the night. It didn’t start out that way.

The teams traded three-and-out series on the first four possessions of the game. After another quick Arabian offensive sequence, the Marauders put their quick-scoring offense on display.

“You have to give Pendleton Heights credit,” Lidy said. “Their defense came out and did a good job executing and getting stops. Our guys had to respond. The last few weeks we’ve gotten away with getting big plays early and scored and it’s not always going to be like that.

“It was good for our guys to have some adversity early and have to play some real football. It was a good cat and mouse game going on.”

In just 1:06, Mt. Vernon needed just three plays to go 70 yards. La Belle had runs of 33 and 7 yards and Hegler finished it off with a 30-yard score. Slunaker connected with Burhenn on the 2-pointer to give MV an 8-0 lead with 3:25 left in the opening period.

In the second quarter, Mt. Vernon scored three times. Again, it didn’t need much time to cover the needed ground.

Starting on their own 42 after a failed Pendleton Heights’ fourth-down try, Slunaker connected with Gentry on a 48-yard gain. From the PH 10, Slunaker got halfway there with a 5-yard pass to Burhenn. La Belle followed with a 5-yard touchdown run. The three-play, 58-yard series took only 53 seconds.

After another quick Pendleton Heights possession, the Marauders had their longest, time-wise, scoring drive of the game, 1:17. Beginning from their own 29, Hegler had a pair of runs to get to the MV 40.

Burhenn, this time on a running play, went 15 yards to the PH 45. An unsportsmanlike foul on the Arabians moved the ball to the 30. MV scored on the next play when Slunaker found Gentry on a 30-yard scoring play with 6:57 left until halftime.

The fast-paced Marauders saved their best, and fastest first-half drive for last.

Beginning from the MV 16 with 2:22 left until halftime. The Marauders covered the 84 yards in just four plays and in 47 seconds. La Belle went for 11 yards. Slunaker to Gentry followed with a 30-yard pass play.

Burhenn was on the receiving end of a 23-yard Slunaker toss and Gentry ended it all in the end zone with a 20-yard run.

The two second-half scoring drives were the fastest of the game.

On the second play of the second half, La Belle went 54 yards for a score. The Marauders second possession was a one-and-done. From the MV 30, Hegler went 70 yards.

Ethan Yeley hit on all five of his PAT attempts.

The win was Mt. Vernon’s 15th straight in Hoosier Heritage Conference play and sixth straight against Pendleton Heights. It was their 19th straight win over an HHC opponent, also owning two sectional wins each over the Arabians and New Castle.

It was Mt. Vernon’s fifth straight win overall, following an opening season loss to Class 6A Noblesville.

The Marauders look to continuing their winning streak and defense of their HHC crown next Friday at New Castle. Pendleton Heights plays host to Delta.

Mt. Vernon 43, Pendleton Heights 0

PENDLETON HEIGHTS (3-3, 1-3 HHC);0;0;0;0;—;0

MT. VERNON (5-1, 4-0 HHC);8;21;14;0;—;43

MV—Travon Hegler 30 run (George Burhenn pass from Gehrig Slunaker), 3:25

MV—Keagan LaBelle 5 run (Ethan Yeley kick), 10:07

MV—Ashden Gentry 30 pass from Slunaker (Yeley kick), 6:57

MV—Gentry 20 run (Yeley kick), 1:35

MV—LaBelle 53 run (Yeley kick), 11:18

MV—Hegler 70 run (Yeley kick), 3:57