MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets fell behind early against the Zanesville Blue Devils Friday and, despite multiple attempts, were unable to take the lead, falling 27-18.
“I thought there were a lot of positives tonight,” Mount Vernon coach Mike Kerr said. “We came out offensively and we ran the ball effectively. We were able to mix it up and do some different stuff. They (Zanesville) did a great job offensively, themselves, moving the ball down the field and getting an early lead. I thought we fought really well, we just couldn’t overcome that lead.”
The Jackets had a three-and-out to start the contest and the visitors made them pay, marching down the field on an 8-play drive that ended in a 20-yard touchdown from Ben Everson to Dekker Davis, putting the Blue Devils ahead 7-0 with 6:19 to go in the first. A massive runback on the ensuing kickoff by Sam Bethea set up Mount Vernon at the Zanesville 20. Four plays later, Ashton Fisher toted the rock into the endzone on a 7-yard score. The PAT failed, putting the Jackets behind 7-6 with 4:46 remaining in the frame.
The Blue Devils were not content with their lead in the first, putting together another long drive, marching 68 yards on 11 plays, ending with a 1yard run from Jalen Haley to push the Blue Devil lead to 13-6 after the PAT was blocked with eight ticks to go in the first.
Neither team got much going into the second quarter, until Bethea again shot some life into the Jackets, hurdling a defender on a punt return. He was flagged for a personal foul on the play, but the jump added some energy. Four plays later, Cory Berg came down with a 30-yard pass from Noah Hubbard and stretched for the goal line. The two-point conversion failed, keeping Mount Vernon behind 13-12 with 7:08 to go in the half.
Zanesville had another long scoring drive in the second quarter, taking almost seven minutes off the clock. The 16play drive ended in a 5-yard run for Everson into the endzone, pushing the lead to the eventual halftime score, 20-12.
Halfway though the third quarter, the Blue Devils showed their own magic on special teams, with Slade Norris weaving through the Mount Vernon coverage team and taking the ball to the Jacket 32. It took one play and Everson linked up with Jamal Wiggins for the score, putting the visitors up 27-12 with 6:38 to go.
Following the Blue Devils score, it was the Jackets’ turn for a long drive. Mount Vernon strung together 16 plays, going for it on fourth down three times on the drive. Fisher, who scored a previous touchdown, was injured deep into the drive, so Wyatt Gregory, who missed time with an injury earlier in the game and was still not at 100 percent, finished off the possession with a 10-yard score. Mount Vernon cut the lead to 27-18 with 11:54 to go in the fourth.
“Man, he gutted it out,” Kerr said of Gregory. “What a performance by him gutting it out. He’s such a tough kid and such a fighter.”
Both teams had a stalled drive, before another punt by the Blue Devils pinned the Jackets on their own 7. Mount Vernon was driving down the field and the possession was continued on a fourth-down catch by Gavin Moyer, his third catch on fourth down of the game.
“In those fourth down moments, the kids came up with big plays,” Kerr said. “Gavin Moyer, I don’t know how many big catches he had.
Just some great things going on there. We’ve got to be able to sustain a little more, but I was really pleased with how they fought down the stretch.”
The drive ended in an interception thrown to Michael Cassell at the Zanesville 10, ending the scoring chance, with only 2:17 to go on the clock.
The Jackets defense held the Blue Devils to only three offensive plays on their next drive. There was a bad snap on the punt and the kick never got off, setting up the Jackets on the Zanesville 13 with 41 ticks to go. Against a tough defensive effort, Mount Vernon failed to move the ball, other than on two Zanesville penalties. The home team was kept out of the end zone and a field goal attempt was blocked, allowing the visitors to kneel away the clock.
“It’s just something we’ve got to continue to work on is capitalizing on those opportunities and understanding when those opportunities arise, there has to be that sense of urgency there on both sides of the ball,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to find a way in those crucial situations to make plays.”
When the dust settled, Gregory was the top rusher for the Jackets, finishing with 82 yards on 19 carries, while Fisher had 10 carries in three quarters for 36 yards. Hubbard was 10 of 21 for 85 yards. Moyer was his favorite target with 33 yards on three receptions. Everson accounted for 56 yards on the ground, as well as 180 yards on 14 of 20 passing. Davis led Zanesville with 56 yards on four receptions.
The Jackets dropped to 2-4 on the year. Zanesville brought its record up to 4-2. Mount Vernon returns home next Friday in a Homecoming matchup against Wooster, kicking off at 7 p.m.
“Hopefully the kids bounce back from this and understand the positives,” Kerr said. “Hopefully they see Homecoming as a positive and an exciting time and we get out and get after Wooster next week.”