By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON — Clinch winning season. Beat arch rival. Become playoff eligible.
The Rams football team accomplished all those things with a resounding 37-7 win over Centralia on Friday.
“(It was) just a great night overall to be able to accomplish all those things in one game was fun,” Mt. Vernon football coach Jared Shaner said.
Shaner said he took very little time to celebrate the victory. He returned to the school after the win and spent time preparing for the Rams next opponent until about 1:30 a.m.
“I took a little bit of time this weekend and probably just sat by myself and smiled a little bit,” Shaner said. “(We) didn't really do a whole lot with the coaches in terms of (celebrating). We talked about it a little bit, but then it was just kind of on. We turned our attention and focus to Mt. Carmel and to trying to get our sixth win of the year.”
Despite Friday's accomplishments, there's still plenty for the Rams to play for this week. A win over Mt. Carmel this week would mean the Rams clinch an automatic playoff berth. Mt. Vernon currently has five wins. They are eligible for the playoffs, but the Rams aren't assured of an automatic place in the postseason.
The tiebreaker for five-win teams to make the postseason is what is referred to as playoff points. It's the combined wins of all a team's opponents. The Rams enter the final week of the year with 41, the most of any five-win school in 5A. The highest the cutoff has been in past seasons is 40, Shaner said.
Shaner added that with all that is still on the line for his team, he doesn't expect an emotional letdown after Friday's critical win. In addition to playing an unbeaten Mt. Carmel team, the game is the Rams senior night. Mt. Vernon could also improve its postseason seed with a win to end the regular season.
“I think that's what we're going to be geared up for,” Shaner said. “We sure would rather be 6-3 and maybe have a chance to get a 7-2 or 8-1 team as opposed to being 5-4 and drawing somebody who's undefeated on the year.”
Shaner said the Centralia win does relieve some of the stress that would have accompanied a final week where the Rams were simply just trying to claw their way into the postseason.
“It definitely takes some of that pressure off, that's for sure,” Shaner said. “If we get win No. 6 it's icing on the cake in terms of the playoffs, making our road a little bit easier, maybe. But I'm sure glad we're not 4-4 right now. That's for sure.”