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MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets were hit in the mouth with Newark taking the opening kickoff to the end zone to go up 7-0, but the Jackets answered again and again through Friday’s game, winning 41-27.
“It was so gratifying seeing our kids with the final response,” Mount Vernon coach Mike Kerr said. “That’s what we’ve worked on all season. We pushed these kids and put them in uncomfortable situations so they could respond, and tonight they responded over and over again. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but the response was just fantastic.”
As mentioned, Newark struck first with a 95-yard kickoff return to open the contest with a 7-0 lead.
“Obviously that is not the way we ever want to start a game, but I think that the kids understood from all of the stuff we have done, that something bad is going to happen,” Kerr said. “It just happened earlier than we expected.”
Mount Vernon went 3-and-out and the Wildcats marched down the field on a 13-play drive, which went 81 yards. Mount Vernon held tough in its own red zone, keeping Newark to a 23-yard field goal, giving the visitors a 10-0 lead with 5:11 to go in the first. Mount Vernon rebounded on its next drive, with Noah Hubbard linking up with a slanting Trey Davidson for a 56-yard touchdown pitch and catch, trimming the lead to 10-7.
Neither team finished out the first quarter strong and that carried into the second quarter. Mount Vernon took over the ball on their own 16 and on the 10th play of the drive, Hubbard linked up with Ashton Fisher for a 12-yard touchdown strike, putting Mount Vernon up 14-10 with 7:14 left before intermission. The Wildcats had a marching drive of their own, going 10 plays and scoring on a 4-yard toss from Jake Sherman to Shawn Keaser, giving Newark a 17-14 lead, which it took into the locker room.
“Initially, we just had me in the backfield and then during halftime, me and Ashton Fisher went and talked to coach Kerr about the run game,” running back Wyatt Gregory said. “He brought in our back-series, which is where we have two backs in the backfield. That brought up really good schemes for us, and they didn’t know who was going to get the ball.”
The talk in the locker room struck a chord with the Jackets, and Fisher took it to the gridiron, scoring on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, a 70-yard tote.
“Coach said I could do it, and I believed him. I can always believe coach,” an emotional Fisher said after the game. “He is the greatest coach I’ve ever had. I just did what he told me to do. It was because of my line and my team. I couldn’t do it without them. That’s my family.”
On their next drive, the Wildcats put a 20-yard field goal through the uprights off the toe of Garrett Kashner, keeping the game tight with the Jackets up 21-20. A series of punts took the game to the fourth quarter.
Fisher’s backfield mate, Wyatt Gregory, got into the scoring action on the first play of the fourth, finding the end zone on a 3-yard run to the outside, but the PAT was missed, keeping the score at 27-20 in Mount Vernon’s favor. Sam Bethea halted the ensuing Wildcat drive before it could even get started, coming up with an interception, but the Jackets had to punt it away.
The Wildcats struck next, with Jade Batross scoring on a 5-yarder to knot the game at 27 with 8:40 left on the clock. The tie did not last long, with Mount Vernon putting together a nine-play drive, which ended with Gregory rumbling his way to the end zone on a 22-yard run. Gregory and Ashton were both able to extend their runs in the second half by lowering their shoulders.
“Me and him are both hard-nosed runners,” Gregory said. “Throughout the whole game, we were wearing them down.”
Fisher made the Wildcats pay one more time, capping off a nine-play drive with a 1-yard score to push the edge to 41-27 with 1:23 to go. A sack by Harry Ogle on Newark’s fourth down forced a turnover on downs, allowing the Jackets to kneel away the clock and take the win.
“We did it,” Fisher said. “We all fought. We did it together. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a bond. This ain’t gonna be broken. I will never forget this.”
Fisher accounted for three touchdowns and Gregory had two to his credit. As the signal caller, Hubbard went 10-of-14 for 87 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Davidson was the top receiver with three catches for 65 yards.
Mount Vernon now sits at 1-1 on the year and return home next Friday to take on Buckeye Valley, starting at 7 p.m.