MOUNT VERNON — Nice to see you in the postseason again, boys. It’s been a while.
It’s been six years, to be exact, since the Mount Vernon Mustangs were football playoff qualifiers. Mount Vernon enters its regular-season finale tonight against Center Point-Urbana assured of playing again Wednesday night in a first-round game.
The Mustangs (5-3, 3-2) can’t win Class 2A District 4 but could decide who does. CP-U is 7-1, 4-1, a game behind leader Dyersville Beckman.
Tonight’s game will be telecast on KCRG-9.2 about 7:30.
“It’s certainly been a real exciting year,” Mount Vernon Coach Duane Orr said. “It’s been a year when we accomplished a lot of goals we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year. We wanted to win on a consistent basis.”
Mount Vernon turned some heads with a close loss to Solon in the season opener, then handled West Liberty. A 35-28 loss to Beckman followed, but it’s been four wins in five games since, including three shutouts.
Mount Vernon dropped from Class 3A this season, which helped.
The Mustangs were 2-7 last season, 0-9 in 2010 and hadn’t had a winning record since legendary Coach Jim Bellamy retired after the 2006 season.
“We’ve done something we haven’t done here for a few years,” Orr said.
“To bounce back from where we were is something to be proud of.”
Orr said a big key in the renaissance has been the leadership of several players, especially five seniors who are three-year starters. Marshall Tuerler is the team’s top rusher and touchdown guy, linebacker Jake Mueller its top tackler.
Logan Walker has been part of a successful quarterback platoon with junior Jake Pisarik and stands out on defense. Conner Shaffer leads the team in receptions and has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.
Mitchell Jilovec anchors the offensive and defensive lines. Jilovec is related to former Mount Vernon and Iowa Hawkeye star Matt Kroul and wears Kroul’s No. 53.
“The five of them, they’ve been through some real difficult times,” Orr said. “This is particularly gratifying for them. I think there’s a lot of excitement around school. … At this time of the year, we just want to be playing our best.”