MOUNT VERNON, Mo. — For Mount Vernon Football and Head Coach Tom Cox, Friday offers familiar surroundings, bringing them back to Cassville where the Wildcats ended the Mountaineers’ season last year in the district championship.
An element adding extra excitement on top of the regular week one motivation.
“You know Cassville, it’s just always a great game with us,” Mount Vernon Head Coach Tom Cox said. “We just look forward to playing them because Coach Parnell has a great program down there.”
“I didn’t know Cassville was like this big of a rival, but playing them the past few years it’s a rivalry,” Mount Vernon senior center Dominic Dawson said. “It’s a ballgame.”
But that district final represented a microcosm of a tough year for Mount Vernon.
After a 4-0 start, the Mountaineers were devastated by COVID and injuries – leading to a depleted squad in that last visit to Wildcat Stadium.
“It’s always in my mind,” Dawson said. “If COVID wasn’t existing, then I think that could have been a very different outcome of that game.”
“No question, it’s on our minds,” Cox said. “We had five two way starters out that week for COVID. Our young guys stepped up. It was bad for last year, but it’s been good for this year.”
The Mountaineers were forced to lean on younger teammates.
A theme that continues into this year with a sophomore starting quarterback in Ethan Hoff, almost no returning starting running backs or receivers, and most notably center Dominic Dawson represents the lone healthy senior on the roster.
“We harped on it all summer long,” Cox said. “We don’t care what grade you’re in. You’re a Mountaineer and you’re expected to step up just like everybody else.”
“We don’t have the returning starters that we’ve had in the past,” Dawson said. “We’ve got one. Those guys over there, they’re doing their job. They’re doing their part of the team. They’re learning, doing their best and I think we can get somewhere.”
So once again, Mount Vernon enters Wildcat Stadium depleted, but riding lessons learned from last year and looking for a different result.
“These guys have been Monday night players,” Cox said. “Now it’s time to transition to Friday night. It’s into the fire with Cassville, but I think they’re up to the challenge.”