FOOTBALL FAMILY: Mt. Vernon football team’s roots go back to Youth League days – The Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE – For many families of Mt. Vernon High School footballers, today’s state championship game is the culmination of a journey they’ve shared since the players were small children.

Many athletes started competing against each other during their junior football league days. Even so far away, those watching from the stands and backstage saw the likelihood of success this season.

The Marauders, who have won 13 straight games, will take the field for the Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 4A State Championship at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. They will play at Northridge High School in Middlebury, County Elkhart.

Lay the foundation

Chad Masters, the defensive line coach at Mt. Vernon, coached many of the team’s seniors when they were in second year and many juniors when they were in kindergarten in the Mt. Vernon Youth Football League. . His son, Chase, is a junior on the team.

“For the most part, all of these kids have stuck together their entire footballing careers,” Masters said.

He remembers seeing their talent and potential before.

“I remember we would, not just me, but the parents and other coaches, we told the kids that when the current seniors got into their 12th grade and they had that junior class below them for to help them, they could win a state title, “said Masters.” We’ve been telling them this since they were young. And to really think that it could happen, it really didn’t set in, to be honest. ”

Reggie Johnson, former Mt. Vernon football player and father of senior linebacker Owen Johnson, coached youth football with other fathers who had also played football.

“As former players we kind of knew what we had because we had good athletes,” he said. “They were by no means huge; we knew we had speed.

In Owen’s third year, this potential began to manifest more fully.

“Because we would go to these All-Star tournaments and win them big, and we were never the biggest,” Johnson said.

They often played teams with much bigger players, he continued.

“But our boys didn’t care,” he said. “They literally didn’t care, and we were just running around them. It’s kind of what you see on Friday nights now, these last Friday. We are by no means bigger, but our boys don’t care.

Brian Gentry, father of senior receiver Ashden Gentry and former youth league coach, also recalled the victories accumulated by these young all-star teams.

“They have always been successful,” he said. “They’ve had a lot of success against regional county teams, and we’ve always said if they all stay, they’re going to be successful and have a chance to go to the United States.”

Reggie Hayse, father of senior linebacker Max Hayse, also saw his son play in the Mt. Vernon Youth Football League.

“I think we’ve been very lucky to go through MYFL with such amazing coaching groups,” said Hayse, also a Mt. Vernon alumnus and former football player.

He also remembers the prowess of his son’s football teams.

“That’s kind of what laid the foundation for their current situation,” said Hayse. “And just so that they all come together as freshmen.” … These boys have really persevered all these years, but this is such a tight-knit and close group of boys. We are all just family.

It was important for Hayse to encourage her son’s interest in football.

“It was largely just to overcome some difficult paths in your life where football will help you understand that there are bumps in the road and how hard you have to work for things, and that there are bumps in the road. has trials and tribulations that you are going to encounter, ”he said. . “And you don’t do it all alone; you have to rely on your team and the other guys to help you be successful.

Links between generations

Most of the friendships between footballing parents in Mt. Vernon extend beyond their sons’ school days and return to theirs.

“Some of these parents were our classmates when we were in school,” Hayse said. “You talk about almost 30 or 40 years that you’ve been with these people – their entire lives. You know their parents, you know their grandparents; it’s just from the late 80s and early 90s with a lot of these families.

Johnson agreed.

“A lot of people from Mt. Vernon our age ended up marrying someone from Mt. Vernon, and then we stayed in school, so it was always really tight-knit,” he said. “We have all become very good friends.”

Parents often fall back before games, Gentry bringing the grill in the back of his van. He remembered going to Ohio for a year to watch his son play football in conditions so cold that parents wrapped themselves in sleeping bags in the stands to warm up.

“We chased these guys out with other parents and stayed in hotels and it creates a fun atmosphere,” said Gentry. “It’s a good bunch of families, and everyone is in it.”

Tim La Belle, father of Mt. Vernon Keagan and Kellan La Belle players, works an hour away and noted the family could have easily moved.

“But we have such a great little community,” he said. “We grew up with these people, these fathers and these coaches, and we have all been a part of everyone’s life. “

It is also a confidence factor for him and his wife.

“Apart from Lori and I, we know who is going to help raise our children, teach them how to be a good man, how to be responsible, how to overcome adversity,” said La Belle.

The pride of a parent

“It’s hard to take the smile off my face, I can tell you that,” said Hayse, watching her son play football. “It’s not the pride I take from just looking at him, but it’s just looking at all these boys.” Such a tight group, and there are so many years invested in each of them. It’s a family, and it’s been an absolute joy to be a part of it and to see that; it was so much fun.

Gentry feels the same for his son.

“He loved every minute of it,” he said. “It’s been so much fun watching him over the past four years in high school, and the success of Mt. Vernon made it even more special. It has been incredible.

Johnson said he was nervous watching the team’s last games, fearing a loss would be their last.

“But now that it’s the last game, I’m honestly not so nervous about the game as I wonder how I’m going to be next week, win or lose, because I know it’s over,” he said. he declared. . “It’s been such a strange feeling this week. That’s it.”

Hayse hasn’t thought too much about everything being over yet.

“It will definitely hit very soon,” he said. I hope it doesn’t happen on Saturday night. I hope Saturday will be full of fun and celebration, and maybe that’s something I’ll think about more next Sunday.

La Belle takes a similar approach.

“Obviously these boys we love and care about are all going to go in different directions after Saturday’s game,” he said. “In many ways it’s a little heartbreaking because they all grew up together and went through so many challenges together. But other than that, it’s also a great opportunity. We try not to think after Saturday. We’re really proud of these boys and look forward to Saturday, of course. “

About Betty J. Snyder

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