Jackets, Presidents set for season opening game
MOUNT VERNON — The Marion Harding Presidents will roll into still-under-construction Yellow Jackets Stadium in Mount Vernon, on Friday evening, to open the 2019 high school football season. The Prexies and the Jackets are both going through some rebuilding and are a very different pair of teams than the ones that faced off in Marion a year ago. On that occasion, Mount Vernon came out on the short end, 21-12. This season, there may be enough speed between both teams that fans will need to be reminded that they’re watching a football game and not a track meet.
The Jackets maintain a strong defense — solid up front, experienced in the middle with speed and athleticism in the defensive backfield.
The Jackets will need it all because the Prexies will come in with a new look spread offense and a new quarterback. With last season’s signal caller, Noah Thompson gone to graduation, Harding coach Jarrod Slater has chosen Alex Blevins — a transfer, student from River Valley that came to the Prexies in 2018 — to be his QB in 2019. Blevins, a 6-foot-1, 190 pound junior, has several good targets, including: seniors Jacob Hoffman, Tobias Thompson-Reece and Jamiah Capdeville (as a slot back). The Presidents also have junior Trae Davis and sophomore Kenny Faggs, who can rotate in. Together, they will test the Jackets’ defense on the outside.
Jackets fans will get to see Will Small’s first game as middle linebacker and the leader of the Mount Vernon defense.
“Last year Will played beside (now graduated MLB) Harry Ogle as strong side linebacker,” said Mount Vernon head football coach Mike Kerr. “Now, we’ve moved Will to the middle. He’s our signal-caller, this year. Will is different than Harry, who was a more fiery guy. Will is much more cerebral. He really diagnoses what’s going on.”
While the Jackets may be able to put a damper on the spread, they’ll need to keep an eye on the ground attack as well. The Prexies will be bringing Capdeville, along with senior running back DeAndre Ayers (who was first team all-conference in track), senior Dylan Swint, along with juniors Trinton Freeman and Zander Galyk. The fleet Blevins, who has doubled as a wide receiver, will be a serious threat to run, if the Jackets shut down the passing attack. Blevins is an all-around athlete, who bench presses 250 pounds and runs a 4.7 forty yard dash.
“Any good game plan begins with stopping the run,” Kerr said. “We want to make them throw the ball and then, when they do, we have to keep plays in front of us. They (Harding) have some big play ability.”
Offensively, look for Kerr to go with both of his quarterbacks, rotating Trey Davidson and Britten Long. That will give the Prexies different looks, until he finds the winning combination.
“Trey and Britten have both shown us a lot,” Kerr said. “We’re pleased with where they are. Both of them bring certain things to the table that we want on the field, so we are planning on both of them getting a shot on Friday night.”
Both Mount Vernon quarterbacks can turn, with confidence, to Jackets’ running back Wyatt Gregory, who averaged more than 60 yards per game last season. All three, along with running back wide receiver Ryan Tiell, will face Harding’s 3-4 defense, which relies on speed and pursuit.
“If they want to load up and cover our running game, that’s fine,” Kerr said. “We’ve got some big guys, on the outside, we can throw to and we’re happy to throw the ball as many times as we need.”
The Jackets will have All-Ohio hurdler and state-qualifying high jumper Corey Berg, who will be the deep threat of receiver corps. Berg has made big strides as a receiver. Junior Gavin Moyer will see plenty of action as well.
“Gavin is fearless,” Kerr said. “He’s made some huge catches for us last year. He goes across the middle and he’ll catch anything.”
Jackets fans will get a first look at senior wide out Spencer Stanley in pads. The soccer player switched to football this season and he brings lots of speed. He was also an All-State volleyball player who can leap.
“(Berg and Stanley) can really go up and get it,” Kerr said. “They can make those big plays even when they might look covered. As long as we put the ball at that high point, we expect those guys to get up and pull it down.”
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