Mt. Vernon High School senior running back/linebacker Keagan LaBelle relished his role in helping Mt. Vernon capture its first state football championship.
“The senior class stepped up,” LaBelle said. “The O-line stepped up. Everybody on this team deserves every little thing they can. This is the best team we’ve had in Mt. Vernon history. This is the best senior class we’ve had in Mt. Vernon history. We’re going to go down in the books. I’m glad it was us.”
The Class 4A No. 4 Marauders rolled to a 45-14 rout of Northridge in the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game Nov. 27 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Mt. Vernon (14-1) averaged 48.2 points per game.
First-year coach Vince Lidy said focus was crucial.
“Our guys did a great job of locking in each week, enjoyed each win for 24 hours,” Lidy said. “This one we’re going to enjoy for a lot more than that. When the playoffs start, we just look at it as one win at a time.”
Mt. Vernon lost to Noblesville 57-36 in the season opener. The Marauders didn’t lose again, including one of their biggest wins, a 27-21 victory against No. 1 Roncalli in the Nov. 12 regional at Mt. Vernon. The Marauders then defeated No. 8 Evansville Memorial, 42-28, in the semi-state.
“Playing all those good teams in a row kept our heads in it,” LaBelle said.
Mt. Vernon had a definite edge in speed and strength against Northridge (10-5).
“I tell everyone on this team to hit the weight room and you’ll be great, and we’ll do great things,” LaBelle said. “That’s the biggest thing that got us here.”
LaBelle had touchdown runs of 24 and 5 yards against Northridge. LaBelle rushed for 76 yards to give him a season total of 1,594 to go with 26 touchdowns.
Senior running back Travon Hegler broke loose for a 54-yard touchdown run.
Senior quarterback Gehrig Slunaker threw for 235 yards and touchdown passes of 44 yards to junior Elijah Bridenthal, 22 yards to senior Ashden Gentry and 11 yards to junior George Burhenn.
“Get the ball to playmakers, get them in open space and they’ll make plays,” Labelle said of the team’s philosophy. “We started off slow. I feel we were too caught up with the crowd. Once we got past that point, we scored a lot of points, forced a lot of turnovers.”
Gentry also scored on a 59-yard interception return.
Slunaker was intercepted twice, and the Marauders lost a fumble.
“We weren’t perfect on offense,” Slunaker said. “We turned the ball over more than we liked to, but we didn’t get too crazy. We kind of took a deep breath. We have to stick to what we do best, play football and have fun. The receivers get open and do their job. The line gave me plenty of time. They don’t get enough credit. I love my line.”
Lidy became the fifth first-year coach in IHSAA history to win a state title. Lidy was promoted to head coach from defensive coordinator after Mike Kirschner left Mt. Vernon to take the Warren Central position.
Lidy was a quarterback and linebacker on Castle’s Class 5A state championship team in 1994. His father, the late John Lidy, was the coach of the team.
The Lidys became the third father and son to win state championships as coaches. The others are Bud Wright (Sheridan) and Kevin Wright (Warren Central, Carmel) andJohn Hart (Evansville Reitz, Warren Central) and Nick Hart (Gibson Southern).