Mount Vernon ready to host games againAfter a six-year absence, high school football will finally make its return to Mount Vernon today. The last time a game was played in the town in 2003, this year’s senior class was in sixth grade, meaning today’s 4:30 p.m. game against Tripp-Delmont/Armour will be the first time any of Mount Vernon’s players will take the field in their hometown.
By: Matt Bunke, The Daily Republic
After a six-year absence, high school football will finally make its return to Mount Vernon today.
The last time a game was played in the town in 2003, this year’s senior class was in sixth grade, meaning today’s 4:30 p.m. game against Tripp-Delmont/Armour will be the first time any of Mount Vernon’s players will take the field in their hometown.
Surely, most of them at least remember football being played in Mount Vernon, but there’s one thing none of them remember: Mount Vernon Mustang football.
After 25 years of being co-oped with another school — the last 18 years with Stickney, and Letcher before that — Mount Vernon is playing by itself once again this season. After a road game and a neutral-site game in Mitchell to open the season, the Mustangs will be playing in Mount Vernon today for the first time since 1984.
“They’re thrilled to be in their hometown,” Mount Vernon second-year coach Ryan Kristensen said. “For the first time, they don’t have to travel to a home game. They’re exited.”
Mount Vernon won’t be playing on its new field quite yet. That field is being constructed on the northwest side of the school, but the lights are still being put up and other final preparations are still being made.
Instead, Mount Vernon will play this afternoon on a newly-constructed practice field on the southwest side of the school. The new field is still on track to open for the Mustangs’ Oct. 2 homecoming game against White Lake/Plankinton.
“The playing field itself is close to being ready to play on,” Mount Vernon athletic director Eric Denning said. “They’re working on the lights as we speak. They’re pouring concrete, and they have to set the poles and string wire, but we’re kind of working on behind the scenes stuff right now.”
Though today’s game will only be on the practice field, it will still be a significant step for the Mustangs. Until 2003, Stickney/Mount Vernon split its home games between the two towns, but that practice stopped after the team moved to 11-man football for a few years.
The team was no longer able to play on Mount Vernon’s 80-yard field in the baseball park, so games were moved to Stickney. As Stickney put more money into its stadium, games remained there, even after the team moved back to 9-man football.
For now, Mount Vernon has moved some bleachers over from the baseball diamond and has rented more from the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department. Eventually, though, Denning said the town hopes to build some type of grandstand and continue to develop the new field.
“Actually, we put in all the infrastructure so we could eventually put a track around the field,” Denning said. “We put storm sewers in, and ground sprinklers, and put in everything so we can continue to develop as we fundraise.”
Fundraising efforts could depend on how well the town takes to having its team back at home, but Denning and Kristensen both said the team has been getting great support so far. Both pointed to a large crowd on hand for the home game last week in Mitchell — which was moved because neither team could accommodate the earlier start time in Mount Vernon that would have been necessary without lights.
“Even with the game in Mitchell, we had a really nice crowd there,” Denning said. “We’ve even had some parents that are pretty gung ho and have jumped on board with the project. Everybody wants to help, everyone wants to be at the games cheering for the kids, and that’s pretty exciting.”
It will be easy for Mount Vernon fans to get excited about the team if it keeps playing the way it has early this season. Mount Vernon, ranked No. 2 in class 9A, already has a win against Chester (then No. 4 in 9AA), as well as a Week 1 win over Woonsocket/Wessington Springs, another 9AA opponent.
“We had two big games against teams that are a class above us,” Kristensen said. “That’s getting the crowd even more excited because our team is going to be ready to come out and play, and the fans will get more involved with football with a good team here.”
Mount Vernon will be tested again tonight against a Tripp-Delmont/Armour team that features a potent passing attack. Quarterback Tom Heisinger threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns last week, and Kristensen hopes his team is ready.
“I’m expecting them to spread us out,” Kristensen said. “They’re going to throw it on us a lot. … We have to expect the pass.”