South Putnam falls to Mt. Vernon
MT. VERNON -- Missed opportunities and costly mistakes spelled doom for South Putnam Friday in what was a close game for much of the night.
The Wildcats capitalized on four Eagle turnovers on their way to a 28-6 win.
Despite spending nearly all of the first half in Mt. Vernon (3-4) territory, South Putnam (3-4) was unable to capitalize on the field position advantage.
The most costly possession for the Eagles was the first of the night, when junior quarterback Grady McHugh went down holding his knee after an option play.
"It's a huge test for your character," coach Nathan Aker said of losing McHugh. "We've had a lot of adversity this year and this was just another chance to try and overcome that."
Junior wide receiver Jimmy Rutter and sophomore fullback Kyle Shaffer split play calling duties the remainder of the night, but the offense generally suffered from McHugh's absence.
After the Eagles' opening possession stalled out, their defense forced the second of three three-and-outs to open the game, taking over at the Mount Vernon 26 after a bad punt.
Runs by Lorian and Shaffer got the Eagles down to the Wildcat 1-yard-line on second-and-goal early in the second period, but the drive stalled from there.
A fumbled snap led to a six-yard loss for Rutter, followed by consecutive incompletions from Rutter and Shaffer to turn the ball over on downs.
Another killer for the Eagles came in the form of penalties, a trend Aker has seen in recent weeks.
"We've gotta get that cleaned up," Aker said. "We've had some penalties the last couple of weeks that have been drive killers. A lot of it comes down to focus and making sure we're all on the same page.
"You can attribute it to what you want, but at the end of the day, we have to find a way to take care of it and make things happen in those situations."
Despite the struggles to finish drives offensively, the Eagle defense was stout in the early going.
"We played really well defensively," Aker said. "Minus the shotgun run stuff, they're pretty much a mirror image of us. We held that in check. There were a couple of poor times to give up big plays. Their coaching staff did a good job of catching us and making big plays. In the end, they made a couple more than we did."
Unfortunately, the shotgun running came into play big time in the next Wildcat possession. Mt. Vernon turned to quarterback Caleb Snodgrass, who ended up owning the night.
The Wildcats embarked on an 85-yard drive fueled mostly by Snodgrass quarterback keepers, the last of which went for 12 yards and a touchdown with 2:42 remaining in the first half.
Trailing for the first time, the Eagles committed their first turnover over of the night, a fumble at their own 32-yard line.
A little trickery and a few seconds later, Mount Vernon led 14-0 on a reverse halfback pass from Alex Stewart to Caleb Grabert.
Trailing 14-0 at the half, though, the Eagles showed signs of life to begin the third period.
Starting from its own 30, South Putnam went 70 yards on 11 plays for its only score of the game. Shaffer, who took over at quarterback part way through the drive, scored on a quarterback keeper with 6:17 remaining.
Despite a failed two-point conversion, the Eagles were back in the game at 14-6.
The momentum did not continue for the Eagles, though. While their defense went back to making stops, the offense turned the ball over on downs on each of the next two possessions.
The second of these gave the Wildcats great field position at the Eagle 33. They wasted no time, completing a 32-yard pass for first and goal before Snodgrass sneaked it in for a one-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead with 7:21 to play in the fourth.
An Eagle interception led to Snodgrass's final highlight of the night.
On first-and-10, the quarterback went 51 yards for the game's final touchdown and a 28-6 lead.
Down by 22, the Eagles were unable to mount another serious run at the Wildcats, throwing two more interceptions in late-game desperation.
The loss ends a three-game winning streak for the Eagles, who will try to get back to their winning ways at home next week.
Aker said the coming weeks is about staying focused and making adjustments.
"It's going to be a big test for us to make our adjustments and stay together as a team," Aker said. "We still have some big goals out there."
These goals include a win on senior night next Friday as well as attempting to finish out an undefeated West Central Conference slate when they travel to Cascade on Friday, Oct. 17 for the regular season finale.
"We're gonna stay together and get after it," Aker said.
South Putnam hosts Columbus (Ohio) Home School at 7:30 p.m. on Friday,
At Mt. Vernon
South Putnam 0 0 6 0 --6
Mount Vernon 0 14 0 14 -- 28
MV: Snodgrass 12-yd run (Schneider kick) 2:42
MV: Caleb Grabert 33-yd pass from Alex Stewart (Schneider kick) 1:59
SP: Shaffer 1-yd run (pass failed) 6:17
MV: Snodgrass 1-yd run (Schneider kick) 7:21
MV: Snodgrass 51-yd run (Schneider kick) 6:56