By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
Splashes of orange were seen throughout the Changnon Gymnasium crowd Friday afternoon.
Hundreds of Mt. Vernon students gathered in the gym for a postseason sports rally on the eve of the Rams football playoff game against Washington.
“It was exciting today at school,” Mt. Vernon football coach Jared Shaner said. “We had a lot of kids who were dressed up (with) face paint and different outfits and things like that. It's always fun when you can see kids get excited about their classmates.
“They were pretty hyper today. So it was a good assembly.”
Several athletes were recognized for their postseason achievements, and the event ended with the focus shifting to the Rams football team.
The squad hosts unbeaten Washington at 1:30 p.m. today. Shaner spoke to the at times raucous crowd. He brought the team's four captains – Tyler Knutson, Jacob Williamson, Doug Gardner and Robert Grider to the floor as well before the sophomores through seniors joined them.
The Mt. Vernon day of football starts with tailgating at the practice field at 10:30 p.m. The school also announced that tickets would be available starting at 11:30 a.m. and students will be allowed to gather in the north side of the football field to root on the Rams.
“All of this year our home games have been tremendous as far as attendance, and I'm really looking forward to (this afternoon) just seeing how many people we can get out here.”
A week ago was Shaner's first experience coaching in the playoffs. He said this week he will take extra time to experience the moment.
“I think my goal is to maybe when we go out there to take a couple deep breaths and enjoy it, turn around, get a view of the stands and just really appreciate where we're at this year as a football team and all the community support,” Shaner said.
The game is the first home playoff matchup for Mt. Vernon since 2007. The Rams finished the regular season 6-3 overall and earned a No. 10 seed before upsetting Mattoon on the Green Wave's home field. The victory set the stage for Mt. Vernon's home game against the Panthers today.
“As I said in the assembly, I just know our kids are going to come out and give great effort for four quarters,” Shaner said. “They don't quit.