By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON — The Rams football team tries to bounce back after a tough loss with a home game Friday against Carbondale.
The Terriers operate under first-year coach Nick Hill and have opened the season 4-1. The only defeat of the season came against Centralia by a point.
“They've changed their offensive identity,” Mt. Vernon coach Jared Shaner said. “They were a little more of a run at you smash-mouth team before with coach (Dan) Koester there.”
Since Hill has taken over the team, the Terriers have implemented a spread offensive style.
Friday marks the annual homecoming game for the Rams. Shaner said he expects another enthusiastic crowd a week after the school's Pink Out Night. Shaner said mental focus for the athletes during the week is critical.
“Homecoming week you just have to make sure the kids are focused and not thinking too much about all the other activities going on. And I think our kids have done a good job of that.
“The weekend's always better when you get that football game win.”
The Terriers along with the rest of the South Seven Conference are all tied at 1-1. The game marks another chance for the Rams to take a step closer to their playoff goal. The Rams need at least five games to be eligible for the postseason.
“Ultimately, we're still right in the hunt looking at playoff points and stuff,” Shaner said.
Fitzjerrells out for Friday
The Rams will be without sophomore Braden Fitzjerrells for the Carbondale matchup.
The team's starting cornerback injured his back on a play against Marion last week.
“What he told me (Tuesday) was they felt like maybe they saw a fracture of a vertebrate, but that was not a hard, solid fact I think at this point,” Shaner said.
Further medical appointments are scheduled for later this week to determine more details.
“If it is a fracture, that's probably the rest of the football season that he's out,” Shaner said.
Demontez Miller-Gray will fill in for Fitzjerrells. Miller-Gray started at cornerback earlier in the season when Jacobee Marshall missed the opening two games of the season. Miller-Gray also doubles as one of the Rams running backs.
“Demontez just won't get as many breaks as he was getting is really what it's going to come down to,” Shaner said.
Last week against Marion the Rams held a 36-28 lead with about two minutes left in the game.
Shaner was faced with a decision to kick the extra point or go for two. He chose to try to for two. The Rams didn't attempt an extra point during the game and were missing their kicker C.J. Lloyd because of knee injury. The Rams also missed all of their kicking practice attempts in warmups.
“That was definitely it C.J. being out and did not have a good kicking routine in pregame, had been going for two, and I think at that point we were three out of four on our two-point conversions,” Shaner said. “So I felt pretty good about it.”
The Rams were stopped, and Marion drove for a game tying score and subsequent two-point conversion.
Shaner added that Lloyd will probably miss Friday's game as well.
Other league action
The Mt. Vernon-Carbondale game is one of three conference games Friday. The others are: Cahokia (1-4) at Centralia (4-1) and Althoff (2-3) at Marion (3-2).