BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON — Rams coach Jared Shaner might be hard pressed to point out a weakness in his football team's play Friday night at Mascoutah.
“I feel like our defense played their tails off (Friday),” Shaner said. “Our special teams were all solid. I know we missed the first extra point. It was pretty darn close. I think he pulled it a little bit, and our offense just drove the ball pretty methodically down the field.”
The Rams dominated every facet of the matchup.
The victory snapped a 13-game losing streak that stretched back to September 2011 and included a winless campaign a year ago.
One of the biggest keys to the game was the Rams grind-it-out style in the running attack. Mt. Vernon piled up 57 run attempts during the course of the game. Demontez Miller-Gray broke a 40-yard run that later ended with a Rams score, but most of the carries went for three or four yards. Inevitably, Mt. Vernon found themselves in third and short throughout the game. Those situations became a test of wills between the Rams offensive line and the Mascoutah defense. Mt. Vernon won most of the matchups.
The passing attack was also crisp. Dylan Reeves completed seven passes. All went to receiver Doug Gardner. None was bigger than when Mt. Vernon needed points late in the game to put the win away. Mt. Vernon held a 20-7 edge, and Mascoutah had just scored.
“(Mascoutah) put a little drive together and to be honest I just thought to myself, a little mediation, a little prayer whatever, and said 'Hey give these guys confidence,” Shaner said. “We're a good team. We've played well tonight. Let's not let the wheels fall off.”
The Rams took possession and were staring at another third and short scenario. This time instead of plowing the ball up the middle of the line, Reeves lofted a pass to Gardner. Thirty-seven yards later the Rams celebrated a score and sealed the victory.
The Rams defense excelled against the Indians from the start.
The Rams shutout Mascoutah in the opening half, and the Indians finished with just 14 offensive plays in the first 24 minutes of action.
The Indians all but abandoned their traditional run game in the second half. Mascoutah spread the field and tried to let quarterback Tim Parks pick apart the Rams secondary or run.
“Other than a few short hitch routes and some curls, I felt like our defensive backs stayed on top of deep balls,” Shaner said. “We came up at the end and just rallied to the football and kept them inbounds and just did the things we needed to do.”
The Rams created a turnover and finished with five sacks of Parks. Several came in the closing minutes with Parks trying to rally the Indians.
Mt. Vernon's special teams also turned in a highlight Friday night. The Rams just missed recovering an onside kick to open the game. Midway through the first quarter, they didn't miss another onside opportunity. The ball bounced around midfield, and Tyler Knutson hopped on it for the recovery.
Mt. Vernon gets its first home game of the season this week against Triad.