Football Mt’neers fall to Seneca in district championship

Steve Chapman

Gavin Johnston uses a quarterback keeper to run the ball past the Indians’ defense. (Photos by Steve Chapman)

Braxton Horton maneuvers past the Indians’ defense as he runs the ball down the field.

The Mt. Vernon Mt’neers and Mt. Vernon cheerleaders come together one final time for the traditional game ending gather.

The Mt. Vernon Mt’neers 2023 football season came to an end a little sooner than they would have liked. The Seneca Indians defeated the Mt’neers, 49-21, at Tom Hodge Field at Seneca High School in the Class 3, District 6 championship game on Friday, Nov. 10. The team ends their season as first runners up in the district championship.
The Indians built a strong lead against the Mt’neers in the first half of the game, scoring two touchdowns and two PATs in the first quarter, an act they repeated in the second quarter. However, the Mt’neers got on the board in the final seconds of the half when Gavin Johnston completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Zerby. Landon Popa followed up with a successful PAT to make the score 28-7 at the end of the first half.
Coming back onto the field after halftime, the Mt’neers scored once again when Johnston completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Zerby early in the third quarter, with Popa again following up with a successful PAT, making the score 28-14.
Seneca, however, made three consecutive touchdowns, followed by successful PATs in the fourth quarter, securing their lead in the game. The Mt’neers scored one final touchdown in the final seconds of the half when Johnston completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jake Leeper, and the game ended with a score of 49-21. After the game, the Mt’neers were presented with the trophy for the district championship’s first runner up.
Tom Cox, the Mt’neers head coach, said he felt badly for the players, coaches and fans.
“I’m so disappointed for our players, especially our seniors, who have been through thick and thin in their careers,” he said. “Guys who have weathered the storm and done everything we have asked of them. After the 2021 season, we asked them to ‘Stay the Course!’  And that’s exactly what they’ve done.  This group, along with last year’s seniors, took the wheel and steered us on a course to 18 wins and a conference championship in two years. I’m disappointed for our coaches, too, who have worked so hard to put us in a position to be successful. They have worked seven days a week since we started official practice on the ninth of August. And I’m disappointed for our fans who have been so generous and so supportive throughout it all. I want to thank them for pouring into our student-athletes.”
Cox added that despite the loss, the game provided many valuable lessons.
“We talk a lot about what it takes to be a Mountaineer, and we use mountain climbing in many examples,” he said. “Our team knows the best views come after the hardest climbs. Seneca proved to be a hard climb.”
The team made some outstanding accomplishments over the course of the season, Cox said.
“This team did some amazing things this year,” he said. “We averaged 38 points and over 400 yards of total offense per game. We rushed for over 2,300 yards and threw for over 2,400 yards. We had 11 different players carry the ball and 13 different receivers catch passes. We made 53 (out of) 56 extra points and made the only 2 field goals we attempted. Our defense only gave up 15 points per game. We had three shutouts, intercepted 21 opponent passes, recovered 10 fumbles, blocked two kicks and had 94 tackles for loss. It was an outstanding season and even though we came up short in our final game, I couldn’t be prouder of the 2023 Mt. Vernon Mountaineers!  Bleed Green!”


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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