Friday night football returns, local teams ready for battle

This Friday, Aug. 26, local footballers return to the gridiron for the beginning of the 2022 season. The following is a look at local teams and what fans can expect.
Mt. Vernon Mt’neers

Coach: Tom Cox (120-78 overall) 17th season at Mt. Vernon
2021 record: 1-10
Players lost to graduation: Dominic Dawson
Returning players: 10 Offense, 10 Defense: Braden Dodson, Ashton Cottrell, Alex Watts, Cody Downing, Layton Pendleton, Wyatte Fowler, Caleb Rinker, Clayton Turner, Grayson Gann, Braxton Horton, Juliun Hernandez, Payton West, Ny Wells, Kade Jenkins, Danny Fields, Payton Jones, Bryce Rinker, Aiden Morton, Jake Leeper and Malachi Hennum
Upcoming players:  Jarrett Zerby, Gavin Johnston
Outlook: If you play in the Big 8 Football Conference with only one senior, you are going to struggle a bit. That was the case for the 2021 edition of the Mt’neers. To make matters worse, the lone senior Dominic Dawson, was injured in the first game of the year and struggled to get back to full health. Injuries and inexperience plagued the Mt’neers last year and that resulted in the 1-11 record. That’s the bad news. The good news is you will be hard pressed to find a team with more returning talent than the Mt’neers. Twenty of a possible 22 starting positions will be held by returners. Senior Ashton Cottrell and sophomore Gavin Johnston will look to battle it out for the starting quarterback position. Cottrell started the Stockton game last season, but tore an ACL on the second play of the game. Johnston stepped in and completed 16-of-32 passes for 108 yards and could have an advantage with Cottrell recovering. All-Conference and All-District selection Braden Dodson returns for his sophomore season after rushing for 910 yards and six touchdowns last year. Alex Watts looks to provide some game-breaking speed that the squad missed a season ago at running back and slot receiver. Layton Pendleton comes in as the leading receiver with 28 catches for 252 yards a year ago that netted him All-District honors. The line will feature six hog mollies that saw time a year ago led by seniors Payton West and Ny Wells.
The linebacker core will be the strength of the Mt’neer defense as they return two All-Conference and All-District backers in Dodson and Cody Downing. Downing has been the heart and soul of this defense for the last couple years and is poised for a big year. Special teams could be a huge strength for the Mt’neers as All-Conference punter Clayton Turner could be one of the better kickers in the entire area and All-Conference/All-District return man Malachi Hennum returns for the Mt’neers
8/26 McDonald County
9/1 @ Monett
9/9 @Aurora
9/16 Logan-Rogersville
9/23 Nevada
9/30 @ Springfield Catholic
10/7 Hollister
10/14 @Marshfield
10/21 Reeds Spring
10/28 Districts

Coach Cox says: “Our season last year was like a death. We did an autopsy on it to see why it went the way it did, what was done well and what we could have done better. Then we buried it. We moved on from last year…. This year, we want to be more explosive. Despite most people’s thoughts on time of possession, each play gives more opportunities for pre-snap penalties which can be tough for a team as young as we are. We want to be explosive and we want to play defense. If we do both of those, we will like where we are.”

Miller Cardinals
Coach: Jerrad Hansen (2-18) third year at Miller
2020-2021 record: 1-9
Key players lost to graduation: Brenden Thom, Joey Williams, Logan Nield, Kaleb Groesbeck
Returning players: Beau Hall, Saige Colley, Owen Pritchett, Malakhi Dalong, Owen Demster, Brady Johnson
Upcoming players:  Nate Hill, Lane Allen, Jaxon Johnson, Walker Phipps, Eli Woods, Caydon Lewis
Outlook: The Cardinals struggled to score last year. They averaged nine points a game while surrendering nearly 46 points per game. In fact, they only scored over nine twice last season; once in a 35-12 loss to Diamond and again in a 34-20 win against Pierce City. However, there is promise this year. They return five players who received All-Conference honors starting with star running back duo Beau Hall and Saige Colley. Also returning are lineman Owen Pritchett and Malakhi Dalong and linebacker Owen Demster. Hall has received some college interest, following a year where he ran for 304 yards and two touchdowns on just 48 carries. Brady Johnson will add a threat on the outside after catching a touchdown last year. It is going to be Lane Allen under center for the Cardinals who saw action in six games a year ago as a freshman.
Defensively, the Cardinals return their top four tacklers and will be very experienced on that side of the ball. Allen rotated in the defensive line and will move to the outside this year. Dalon will be the big boy up front and recorded 36 tackles last year. Pritchett was the leading tackler on the line a year ago with 56 tackles and will build on his All-Conference defensive end season a year ago. Saige Colley and Spencer Bowles will also look to provide some help on the second level.
8/27 @ Hogan Prep
9/2 Stockton
9/9 Agape
9/16 @Diamond
9/23 Ash Grove
9/30 Sarcoxie
10/14 @ Pierce City
10/21 Marionville
Note: Bold denotes Home Games

Coach Hansen Says: “Coming off of a year like last year, the guys are motivated. They felt like they competed well but just need to finish. We have a good senior bunch that is working very hard every day trying to improve and they are motivated to get things turned and going back the right direction.”

Aurora Houn' Dawgs
Coach: Brandon Pitts (0-0) 1st season at Aurora    
2020-2021 record: 7-3; Big 8 East Champions
Returning players: Ethan Hussman, Jack Cline, Daunte Floyd
Upcoming players: Alex Dewitt, Michael Barrientos, Ethan Whitlock, Justus Nickell, Jose Ibarra, Alex Rios, Jax Prater, Evan Harwisgen, Kelton Brown, Keaton Smith, Clayton Cline, Matthew Cutbirth, Josh Blackburn
Outlook: This will be a completely new look Houn’ Dawgs squad. This is what first year coach Brandon Pitts is preaching. Pitts has had several stops on an already impressive resume including Willow Springs, Kickapoo and most recently, West Plains. Secondly, the team will have a new look, as well, as only five starters return. The changes will begin at the quarterback position where there are big shoes to fill after Aaron Fisher graduated. First year player Kelton Brown will be called upon to fill those shoes. Kelton is a fantastic athlete that has been successful on the basketball court along with the baseball diamond. He will step into the quarterback role come week one. The squad will still be led by their line who all run 240 pounds or more. Senior Ethan Hussman earned All-Big 8 honors on both sides of the line. He will be joined by Alex Dewitt, Michael Barrientos and Ethan Whitlock.
Pitts has made his name on the defensive side of the ball at Kickapoo and West Plains and he will look to build on a Houn’ Dawg defense that was very solid a year ago. This will be an inexperienced team but they will be athletic and will be big up front and that is a great start for the Dawgs.
8/26 Seneca
9/2 @ Cassville
9/9 Mt. Vernon
9/16 @ Springfield Catholic
9/23 Hollister
9/30 @ Marshfield
10/7 Reeds Spring
10/14 East Newton
10/21 @ Logan Rogersville
Note: Bold denotes Home Games

Coach Pitts says: “Aurora interested me as soon as I saw the opening. They are a Hall of Fame program and after talking to several other coaches who have played against Big 8 opponents and Aurora, and they spoke of how tough Aurora was and how gritty they were and it reminded me a lot of my guys in West Plains. I knew I had to throw my name in here. As for what we will look like, we are going to be more spread out than what Aurora has been in the past and show more looks on both sides of the ball. From putting it in the air more often on offense to running multiple schemes defensively we want to keep our opponents guessing.”


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


Please Login for Premium Content