by Riley Hicks

Jamie Aull has watched this play about 20 times on film and still does not know how they made it. With just under a minute left in the ball game, the Mount Vernon Mustangs lined up at Our Lady of Mercy Bobcats 1-yard line on fourth down looking to punch it in and secure the victory. Vernon hiked the ball and ran a sweep to the left, the Bobcats sent a blitz where Colin Schmitz met the running back first and Taj Dodson came in a finished him off to make the stop.

This defensive stand allowed Our Lady of Mercy (4-4, 3-2) to defeat Mount Vernon (6-2, 2-2) by a score of 35-31. It was a must needed win for the Bobcats after a tough loss last week against Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, which now puts them back in the playoff race.

“It was a big deal for us offensively,” Mercy head coach Aull said. “It was a back and forth deal, to Mount Vernon’s credit they never quit playing. Fortunately, we were able to turn them over a couple of times.”

The Bobcats’ defense opened the game by forcing a three-and-out, which led to the offense scoring an early touchdown. After just running four plays, quarterback Javon Henderson threw a 17-yard pass to Dodson for the score to go up 7-0. Mount Vernon answered back with an 11-yard run to tie the game at seven at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Bobcats running back Caleb Pressley rushed for a 6-yard touchdown to get back the lead. Once again, the Mustangs responded with a touchdown of their own, scoring on a 48-yard run to nod it up at 14 a piece.

The tie didn’t last for long, as Henderson ran 23 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown on the night. Mount Vernon made a 35-yard field goal before the half to close the gap to 21-17.

During the third quarter, Mercy finally formed some distance from Mount Vernon by Pressley bursting a 59-yard run for the touchdown. Pressley ended the night rushing for 161 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. His second score allowed the Bobcats to take an 11 point lead, which they never relinquished back to the Mustangs.

On the defensive side of the ball, Mercy had one of its best showings forcing three turnovers. Tyler Hill and Schmitz each had an interception that accumulated for two of the three turnovers. The big turnover came off a forced fumble by Henderson that set up the Bobcats final touchdown, which ultimately was the score that gave Mercy the victory.

Mount Vernon tacked on a run for 23 yards to draw the lead to 28-24 at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter following his forced fumble, Henderson dropped back and threw a 25-yard pass to Dodson for the touchdown and the game winning score. Henderson went 4-of-11 passing for 64 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 85 yards.

The game was now in the hands of the Mercy defense, and if it could hold the lead for the remainder of the fourth quarter. Mount Vernon answered quickly with one touchdown from two yards out to draw the score to 35-31. On their final drive of the game, the Mustangs drove down to Mercy’s 1-yard line. The first chance at the end zone was shut down by Jalen Moore, who played center and defensive tackle Friday night for the Bobcats, and forced a fourth down play to decide the game. Ultimately, the defense made the stop to hold onto the lead and keep its chances at the playoffs alive.

“[Moore] didn’t come off the field all night,” Aull said. “Without him wrapping up and holding on that kid probably gets in the end zone on third down.”

Our Lady of Mercy travels to a struggling Greenville (2-5) team Friday night. If the Bobcats can win their next two games they should find a spot in the playoffs.