By Matt Turer (for Ozarks Sports Zone)
MT. VERNON, Mo. — Dane Napier made sure Mt. Vernon’s last gasp didn’t last long. On a team with 20 seniors, it was the sophomore that went up and secured the Indians third and final interception of the night and one of the biggest upsets in the state thus far in district play.
The Indians wore down the Mountaineers on the ground behind Trey Wilson and Monty Mailes, rushing for 219 yards on 36 carries and carrying 4-seed Seneca to a 14-12 upset over the third-ranked team in Class 3 and the top seed in Class 3 District 6 on Friday night in Mt. Vernon.
“It’s a huge win for these guys,” Seneca head coach Ryan McFarland said. “I’ve been here four years and had these guys as freshmen. They’ve bought into everything we asked them to do.”
The Mountaineers (10-1) came into the night undefeated and into the 2019 season coming off back-to-back trips to state, falling in the semifinals in 2018 and the state championship game in 2017.
“Mt. Vernon played extremely hard,” McFarland said. “They’re the team to beat and I’m proud of our guys. We knew we had the ability to do it, we just had to get it done and we did tonight.”
Just under one month ago, Seneca (8-3) came within nine of the Mountaineers in a 21-12 home loss. That loss gave this senior-heavy roster hope.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in so we just worked really hard in practice and prepared all week for them,” Wilson said. “We knew if our offensive line could get a push, we’d be able to wear them down.”
The Indians shocked the home crowd by entering the half up 7-0 and quickly silenced them again with an early score in the second half and a 14-0 lead.
Mt. Vernon would score the game’s final 12 points on a pair of touchdown runs by quarterback Zach Jones, but the Mountaineers failed on both two-point conversions in the half.
Jones and the Mountaineers gave themselves a chance late on a drive that started from their own 24 with 68 seconds left and no timeouts, but that drive only lasted three plays before Napier’s interception.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half,” Mountaineers head coach Tom Cox said. “But I’m proud of how we came back and battled.”
Mt. Vernon was outgained 121-87 in the first half with Jones completing just 5-of-17 passes for 75 yards over the first 24 minutes.
“Whenever you get beat you second-guess some things and some calls that I made that maybe could’ve done some things differently to help us get on track a little bit,” Cox said. “But we turned it over too many times.
“It’s heartbreaking for our seniors. These guys have worked super hard and had a great season. You hate for it to end like this.”
Seneca’s two scoring drives were highlighted by a pair of big plays setting up easy touchdowns.
First, Lance Stephens connected for a 47-yard strike with Preston Armstrong on a third down and nine from their own 19. That play was followed by four straight big chunk runs capped by a six-yard touchdown from Wilson and a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
After a pair of defensive stops to open the second half, Mailes busted a 67-yard run from the Indians own 26 all the way to the Mountaineers seven-yard line. Two plays later it was Wilson capitalizing again and Seneca going ahead 14-0 with 4:40 to play in the third quarter.
“We were able to stop the big play the first time we played them but this time they busted us with one long pass and one long run, and that was the difference in the game,” Cox said.
Under four minutes later, the Mountaineers capped a 59-yard drive to pull within 14-6 on a Jones touchdown run.
It was Jones again in the fourth quarter who pulled Mt. Vernon within 14-12 with 3:37 to play.
In a defensive game, Seneca’s defense won the turnover battle 3-2 with a trio of interceptions from Napier, Levi Ketchum and Preston Armstrong.
Jones was held to 11-for-30 for 160 yards in the game—in part thanks to constant pressure from the Indians front.
“We mixed up coverages but we’ve got some really athletic kids in our secondary that we knew could match up with their receivers pretty well, and we got a whole lot of pressure on Jones so he never had a whole lot of time to do anything,” McFarland said.
SHS 0 | 7 | 7 | 0 | — 14 MVHS 0 | 0 | 6 | 6 | — 12
SENECA TD…8:43…Trey Wilson 6-yard run…PAT Good…7-0 Seneca
SENECA TD…4:40…Trey Wilson 5-yard run…PAT Good…14-0 Seneca
MT. VERNON TD…0:35…Zach Jones 5-yard run…2PT Fails…14-6 Seneca
MT. VERNON TD…3:37…Zach Jones 1-yard run…2PT Fails…14-12 Seneca