Kokomo’s football opener Friday night featured everything the Wildkats are used to under seventh-year coach Brett Colby: dominant line play; a physical running game; the bravado to trust the run on fourth down; and lopsided time of possession.
Only this time, the Kats were the ones facing that onslaught.
Mount Vernon of Fortville took a few pages from Kokomo’s playbook and took physical play right at the Kats, beating Kokomo 29-19 at Walter Cross Field.
“That’s the offense that we know how it works, we kind of invented it here in the state of Indiana,” Colby said. “We’re taking a dose of our own medicine.”
MV ran for 272 yards. The first option was running back Dan Werner, who ran for 97 yards before leaving in the second half with an injury. Fullback Brayton Shannon found plenty of success up the middle and finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns.
“Up front our guard, center, guard are all returning starters. They’re all darn good players,” MV coach Doug Armstrong said. “Our fullback runs with heart. He’s a weight-room warrior and he ran his butt off.”
Kokomo struck first, pouncing on a miscue from the MV kick receive team on the opening kickoff. Three plays later Kat quarterback Tayler Persons took a lateral 10 yards in for a score and a 7-0 lead. But MV rebounded to control the opening half. The Marauders moved the ball 47 yards before getting a field goal on their opening drive, then capitalized on an interception to march 53 yards for a touchdown on their second possession for a 10-7 lead.
The Marauders never trailed again.
Kokomo trimmed the margin to just three points at 16-13 with an 81-yard TD strike from quarterback Persons to tight end Marcelle Kenner with 6:15 left in the third quarter (with a great block by Bo Baker helping), but MV put the margin up to 10 points six plays later, then took all the wind out of the Wildkats in the fourth quarter.
The visitors stopped the Kats’ next drive on the MV 18-yard line. A Kat penalty negated a touchdown run from the 10 on the final play of the third quarter. Kokomo turned the ball over on downs two plays later and the Marauders embarked on an 18-play drive finished on a two-yard plunge by Shannon to make the score 29-13 with just 2:55 left.
MV converted three fourth-down plays on that drive, including one on fourth-and-three from its own 25.
“We’ve done that to people for the last six years,” Colby said. “You impose your will on people with that offense, you wear ‘em down, wear ‘em down. Six for six on fourth down conversions [by MV] just killed us.”
Kokomo got a late TD on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Persons with 1:03 left but couldn’t punch in a two-point conversion which would have trimmed the margin to eight points.
“We’d better get tougher, tougher up front, and execute a little better,” Colby said. “Those are the two things, just toughness and execution. It’ll be a tough week of practice. It’s going to be hot, but we’ll get out there and get after it.”
Persons completed 10 of 13 passes for 175 yards. Matthews caught seven passes for 80 yards. Baker was Kokomo’s leading rusher with 31 yards.
The Kats visit Fort Wayne Wayne next Friday.