When you are the Class 4A, 6th-ranked team, 9-1 lifetime against your opponent, 5-1 on the year, (with five consecutive wins, following a season-opening loss), have defeated your conference rivals, (New Palestine, Delta, and Pendleton Heights) by over 35, 25, and 40 points the last three weeks, you have confidence and momentum
That team is Mt. Vernon (Fortville), who traveled to New Castle Friday night for a Hoosier Heritage Conference match-up against the Trojans.
The Marauders, with a veteran roster, flexed their muscles from the opening kickoff and dominated with a 46-0 win over New Castle Trojans at Neal Field.
"We had a good week of practice, but it sure didn't carry over to tonight," New Castle Head Coach Kyle York commented after the game.
Mt. Vernon won the coin toss, elected to receive, and took all of 36 seconds to put points on the board.
After an opening pass completion of seven yards, Eli Bridenthal ran 47 yards to the NC 11, setting up a touchdown pass from senior QB Gehrig Slunaker to Tre Jones on the ensuing play.
A successful two-point pass completion for the PAT made it 8-0 Marauders with 11:19 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior Kyle Gabbard had a kickoff return of 25 yards, giving the Trojans good field position at their 38 for their opening possession to try and answer the Marauders' opening score.
Mt. Vernon's defense came all-out on the Trojans' first play from scrimmage with a sack against Tyson Lewis, NC's sophomore quarterback.
The same thing happened two plays later, forcing the Green & White to punt.
This time, senior Avery Williams used his athleticism to go the distance with a 62-yard touchdown return, putting the visitors up 15-0 with the successful PAT kick and not yet three minutes off the clock.
NC, then Mt. Vernon, were unable to move the pigskin on their next possessions, resulting in the Trojans beginning their third offensive series at their own 15.
NC fumbled, Mt. Vernon recovered the ball, and then scored on its first play, as Travon Hegler ran in from seven yards out for the touchdown. After the PAT kick good, it was 22-0 Marauders with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter.
New Castle continued clawing, as another good kickoff return had the hosts at their 37 to begin their fourth offensive series.
NC put together a nine-play drive, with their initial first downs of the night in that series, but suffered their third (of what would be five) sacks on the night putting them 4th-and-14.
An unsuccessful pass attempt turned the ball back over to Mt. Vernon. Seven plays, 62 yards, and two minutes later, on the first play of the second quarter, Slunaker connected (his second of the night) with Burhenn for a 20 yard TD pass.
Again, the PAT kick was good, making it 29-0 Marauders just fie seconds into period No. 2.
Following a NC punt, and the Trojan defense holding the Marauders offensive surge, Mt. Vernon's Ethan Yeley kicked a 27-yard field goal making it 32-0 with 8:41 remaining before halftime.
NC's kickoff returns remain a huge positive for the Green and White, as this time Brevan Thrine ran over 25 yards, coupled with Mt. Vernon being called for a face mask penalty, setting the Trojans up over mid-field at the Mt. Vernon 49.
Lewis ran for a yard and then completed three passes to Gabbard in six attempts, setting up third and goal at the Mt. Vernon two.
Two incomplete passes ended up stalling another nine-play drive with no NC points, and the Trojans turned the ball back over to Mt. Vernon.
Three Marauder plays had the ball at their 33. Then Slunaker found Jones for a 67-yard TD pass completion. The PAT kick was good for a 39-0 Mt. Vernon lead with 5:20 remaining before halftime.
New Castle was unable to move the ball, in its last two possessions of the half, while Mt. Vernon scored again on a six-play, 68-yard two-minute drive making the score 46-0 at intermission.
New Castle definitely misses two key seniors out with injuries: QB Eli Cooper and center Matthew Gerth, but as Coach York states, "Nobody feels sorry for you; you just have to keep playing, and remain focused; and working."
"Tyson (QB Lewis) and Braden Bennett, both sophomores, have stepped up 'big time' for us. and they'll just keep getting better and better."
New Castle mounted a couple of sustained drives in the second half, the first coming on their second possession. Thrine's 15-yard run and a 32-yard pass from Lewis to Quintin Boatright highlighted that drive, while a 49-yard pass completion from Lewis to Boartight was the big play of that second drive.
Unfortunately, the Trojans were unable to put any points on the board, even though Trojan fans believe Gavin Anderson did get a foot down in bounds for a touchdown on that second drive.
NC's defense was led by the Maiden brothers, Tyler having six tackles, with Wyatt five; Thrine followed with four, and Brenndon Thompson had two tackles for loss.
As they were leaving the field, Trojan seniors Shaun Moore, Matthew Gerth and Cole Werking, were already moving on to next Friday.
Moore, who sees time on both sides of the ball, said,"We just can't quit. We've got to keep working and fighting and be ready for New Pal, next week."
For Gerth, who is still unable to play due to concussion protocol, not being able to be out there with his brothers was most frustrating.
"All we can do is learn from this and be ready for New Pal next week," Gerth stated.
Cole Werking remarked, "They're (Marauders) good. They're a tough team to play, but we didn't play our best."
Looking ahead to next week and playing at New Palestine, Werking added, "We have the ability to beat them; we just have to prepare this week with the mindset that we can."
That thought was echoed by Coach York.
"We believe we have a team to compete with anyone, on our schedule," York added. "We just have to focus and execute on every play and we can be successful."
New Castle now 2-5 for the season and 1-3 in conference games, travels to New Palestine, (4-3, 4-1 HHC) next Friday. New Pal is coming off a 52-0 win against Shelbyville. The Trojans have never defeated the Dragons in football.
Mt. Vernon (Fortville) 46, New Castle 0
Mt. Vernon - Jones 11-yard pass from Slunaker (Slunaker pass)
Mt. Vernon - Williams 62-yard punt return (Yeley kick)
Mt. Vernon - Hegler 7-yard run (Yeley kick)
Mt. Vernon - Burhenn 20-yard pass from Slunaker (Yeley kick)
Mt. Vernon - Yeley 27-yard field goal
Mt. Vernon - Jones 67-yard pass from Slunaker (Yeley kick)
Mt. Vernon - Slunaker 2-yard run (Yeley kick)
Mt. Vernon: Hegler 6-76, LaBelle 7-73, Jones 2-72, Austin 5-21; New Castle: Eberhart 16-19, Thrine 3-22, Lewis 4-8.
Mt. Vernon: Slunaker 11-15-0, 243; New Castle: Lewis 8-28-0, 144.
Mt. Vernon: Bridenthal 2-60, Burhenn 2-58, Jones 2-84, Gentry 1-7; New Castle: Boatright 3-87, Gabbard 3-48, Bradley 1-3, Frazier 1-6.
Records: Mt. Vernon 6-1, 4-0 HHC; New Castle 2-5, 1-3 HHC.