MOUNT VERNON – The Ashland Arrows’ 0-4 record was as deceiving as a personal injury lawyer running for public office.
The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets found that out the hard way Friday. The two teams traded punches until a pair of forced turnovers made the difference in the teams’ Ohio Cardinal Conference opener. Ashland’s 42-27 victory gave the Yellow Jackets their first loss of the season – and Arrows’ coach Sean Seder his first career win.
“We told the kids to keep grinding. Keep working at it every single week,” said Seder, who took over for longtime head coach Scott Valentine over the summer. “Their efforts paid off tonight. That’s always a good feeling.”
Quarterback Mitch Heilman, who ruled the Jackets last season with 337 total yards, had 297 on Friday. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes (23 of 34) and threw two touchdowns to fellow seniors Cade McQuate and Parker Henkel.
Running back Mason Kanz scored three times, two on runs of more than 40 yards. His 208 yards on 15 rushes (13.8 average) ranks among the top ten single-game yards-per-carry performances in Yellow Jacket Stadium history.
“I can’t say enough about the kids,” Seder said. “I told the kids that they have to go out and want it. And, they wanted it. … Kanz ran the ball like crazy tonight.”
Mount Vernon’s offense shined as well – in the first half, at least. Senior quarterback Trey Davidson completed 10 out of 17 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Spencer Stanley got four of those balls for 93 yards and one score. Wyatt Gregory carried the ball 24 times for 155 yards and a pair of scores.
“I can’t say enough about where we are offensively,” Mount Vernon head coach Mike Kerr said. “I am real proud of them. We went right at them and did our thing. There was a lot of good stuff, especially that first half. Unfortunately, in the second half, we couldn’t keep those drives going.”
The two teams traded touchdowns in the first half and appeared ready to do so again in the second. Henkel ran a quick slant pattern and caught Heilman’s short pass, then streaked down the sideline for a 56-yard score to give the Arrows (1-4, 1-0 OCC) their first lead, 28-21.
On their first ensuing play, the Jackets threw a long pass that fell into the waiting arms of Henkel. The interception turned the tide of the game to Ashland, as the Arrows then embarked on a seven-play, 79-yard drive that ended on a Kanz 42-yard touchdown run.
In the fourth quarter, still trailing by two scores, Mount Vernon (4-1, 1-1 OCC) began a drive that could have put them back in the game. However, after a 37-yard pass from Davidson was completed, the receiver fumbled. The ball was recovered in the endzone by Ashland.
“Those were costly turnovers. We hadn’t had those this year,” Kerr said. “In some ways, they were the difference in the game. But, our kids never stopped battling and never stopped believing.”
Ashland had been overmatched by four successful nonconference opponents this season; three reached the playoffs in 2018, and all four have combined for just three losses this season. In those games, the Arrows didn’t get to showcase their superior speed.
That speed became evident on Friday.
After the Arrows’ first two drives stalled, they finally reached paydirt when Kanz somehow squirted through a group of four would-be tacklers and outran everyone on the field 64 yards to score. On their next drive, Heilman himself scored from 10 yards out to tie the game at 14.
McQuate outran the Mount Vernon secondary with a minute to go in the half to score from 20 yards out to tie the game again.
“They were giving us those routes in the middle. And I said to the team that we aren’t going to be a team that forces things,” Seder said. “We took what was there.”
The Jackets began the scoring on their first drive. Ryan Tiell caught a 19-yard pass from Davidson to reach the endzone, then Gregory scored on a two-point conversion.
Gregory scored on TD runs of one and three yards to keep Mount Vernon in the lead.