By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Overlook Mount Vernon at your own risk.
The Mountaineers believe in themselves and they continue to make big statements in the postseason.
They’re doing it again this year.
Mt. Vernon outlasted Springfield Catholic 26-18 at home Saturday afternoon in the Class 3 state quarterfinals, thanks in part to a pair of defensive stands in the final 10 minutes.
The Mountaineers (12-1 overall), who finished runner-up in Class 3 last season, are back in the final four again. They host Cardinal Ritter (13-0 overall) next Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It feels awesome,” said Mountaineers senior linebacker and running back Will Boswell. “I don’t think there’s a person who at the beginning of the season thought we’d be here.”
With just over two minutes remaining, Catholic faced a 4th and 1 from the Mt. Vernon 33 yard-line. The Mountaineers’ defense stuffed Irish quarterback Tyson Riley for a loss. The MVHS offense ran out the clock on the ensuing drive.
Riley finished with 23 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our defense came up huge on the biggest play of the game,” said Mountaineers coach Tom Cox. “(Defensive coordinator) Chris (Johnston) does such a good job of preparing our guys. We had a good idea of what (Catholic) was going to do, and we just executed on that one.”
Mt. Vernon’s defense also made a stand on Catholic’s previous drive. Trailing 26-18, the Irish drove inside the Mountaineers’ 20, but threw an incomplete pass on 4th and 5 with about 10 minutes left in the game.
Mt. Vernon is now 4-0 against Catholic since 2015, including a 36-30 win on the Irish’s home field earlier this season. All four wins have come by eight or fewer points.
“Today, I think it was just like a college atmosphere. Great weather and packed stands,” Cox said. “It means the world to us to come out of here with a victory.”
Mt. Vernon found itself trailing early in the second half (18-14), after the Irish drove 58 yards in just three plays and scored on a 27-yard touchdown run by Riley. On the previous play, Riley hit Charlie O’Reilly for a 37-yard completion to put the Irish in position.
Mt. Vernon’s next drive ended with an interception, but the Mountaineers followed that with a 53-yard touchdown run by Carson Bowman and a 59-yard touchdown run by Boswell to go up 26-18.
“I saw one (Catholic) guy (in front of me) and then our right tackle came all the way across the field and blocked him and I got free,” Boswell said. “And then my calves started cramping, so I was just trying to make it to the endzone.”
Boswell had 22 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Mountaineers quarterback Zach Jones was 14-for-20 for 177 yards. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Vaughn in the second quarter that put Mt. Vernon ahead 14-11.
Vaughn had three catches for 70 yards. Rafe Darter had three catches for 34 yards.
“Our offensive guys have balanced stats,” Jones said. “If you look at our top four receivers, their stats are almost identical. That’s really hard to defend.”
Cardinal Ritter, Mt. Vernon’s opponent next week, beat Kennett 42-9 on Saturday. The Lions have scored 40 or more in nine straight games.
Mt. Vernon 26, Catholic 18
Catholic 3 8 7 0 — 18
Mt. Vernon 8 6 6 6 — 26
Catholic – Brock 37 kick
Mt. Vernon – Boswell 13 run (Jones pass to Vaughn)
Catholic – Riley 1 run (Riley run)
Mt. Vernon – Jones 30 pass to Vaughn (pass failed)
Catholic – Riley 27 run (Brock kick)
Mt. Vernon – Bowman 53 run (pass failed)
Mt. Vernon – Boswell 59 run (pass failed)