By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
A pair of key cogs on the Rams offensive line signed to play collegiate football on Monday afternoon.
Mt. Vernon's Tyler Bradley will compete for Missouri Baptist University, and Eli Phillips will play for McKendree University.
“I'm very happy and excited for those two guys,” Mt. Vernon football coach Jared Shaner said. “And just proud of the fact that they came through our football program and really I think helped to turn the corner, I hope.”
Both were critical in the resurgence of Mt. Vernon's football team this season. After winning just one game in two years, the Rams finished 7-4. The mark included a playoff win at Mattoon. Mt. Vernon's season ended with a second-round loss to Washington.
“It was neat as a coaching staff to watch those two grow and to culminate in the year that we had this past year,” Shaner said. “And it was good as the guy who calls the plays to feel pretty comfortable with just about anything you called in a lot of games run-wise.”
All season Bradley and Phillips worked to open holes for a Rams offense that was built around its ground game.
“The whole (offensive) line worked extremely hard all year to open up those holes, and we made sure we had everything done. We knew the plays. We knew what we had to do every single play,” Phillips said.
From Bradley's center position on the line, the coordination with quarterback Dylan Reeves was key. Each play the center snaps the ball to the quarterback. The timing and communication between the two players must be consistent.
“I needed to know how he stepped. He needed to know how I stepped,” Bradley said. “We were basically the same person, just two brains.”
Shaner added both players brought leadership qualities to Mt. Vernon on and off the field.
“Those two are going to go on and play some more football in college, and we'll miss them on the football field,” Shaner said. “The leadership of those two guys they are tremendous in the classroom. I'm pretty sure you could talk to any teacher they've had throughout the last four years, and I can just about promise you those teachers would say they enjoyed having those guys in class.”
McKendree University is located in Lebanon and finished 4-6 last season. Missouri Baptist University is located in St. Louis. Both Bradley and Phillips were named all-South Seven Conference selections. Phillips was named to the first team, and Bradley was selected for the second team.