BY PAUL HINES
The Rams football team dropped its opening game of the season 32-6 Friday night.
Mt. Vernon coach Jared Shaner said there were positives to the game despite the loss.
“As a competitor, you don't look at the scoreboard and see 32-6 and have a lot of great things to say right off the bat when you come off the field,” Shaner said. “I do know that I can take a step back and know that hey we competed with them. We did do some good things.”
Rochester opened the game with the first three scores and took a 19-6 lead into the half.
The first tally came four minutes into the game for Rochester. Robbie Kelly hit receiver Jeremy Blevins for a big pass play. Blevins raced to the end zone 74 yards later.
Mt. Vernon's Braden Fitzjerrells was an offensive catalyst from his special teams position.
With the Rams down 19-0 midway through the second quarter, Fitzjerrells turned in a highlight reel run for the Rams. The sophomore took a kickoff and raced 90 yards untouched to the end zone. The score slashed Rochester's lead to 19-6 after the extra point was blocked.
“I said, hey that's your breakout,” Shaner said. “I'm telling you right now don't worry about your grade or your age. You deserve to be a high school varsity player.”
It wasn't the only big burst Fitzjerrells would give the Rams. He struck again in the third quarter with the Rams trailing 25-6. Fitzjerrells again took a kickoff and rumbled through the Rochester defense. Fitzjerrells wasn't stopped until entering the Rochester red zone. The return went for nearly 80 yards.
The Rams offense was able to find running room against the Rochester defense throughout the evening but couldn't turn in a huge gain in the clutch. After Fitzjerrell's second big return, the Rams drive went backward and stalled.
Graham Henken led the Rams with 43 yards rushing. Dylan Reeves finished with 42 yards on the ground. Reeves finished with 55 yards through the air.
Rochester's Robbie Kelly finished with 178 yards passing.
Mt. Vernon is 0-1 this season and travels to Mascoutah on Friday. Rochester improved to 1-0 this season.