A new era of Mount Vernon High School football will kick-off Friday.
Under the guidance of new coach Gary Keller, the Yellow Jackets visit McConnellsville Morgan.
Keller replaces Scott Spitler, who stepped down following last season’s 1-9 campaign.
Keller brings a wealth of experience to the program.
He was the head football coach at Ashland University for 10 seasons (1994-2003) before serving as defensive coordinator at Mansfield Senior the last three seasons.
Keller will teach in the career based intervention program at Mount Vernon.
“We want to set a system up where we can be competitive,” Keller said. “We have to start basically at ground level and just start working our program and try and develop kids. We want to work on their attitudes, both on and off the field. We want to take small steps to make ourselves better.”
The Yellow Jackets will feature several new players, but return a key player at a skilled position as quarterback Kyle Shackle who is back for his senior season and will direct the team’s run and shoot offense.
“It will be a big help for us to have a guy that has some experience play,” Keller said. “He has stepped forward. He is the veteran quarterback on our squad.”
Junior Brian Hoar will back-up Shackle at quarterback.
A potentially deep backfield will include senior Trevor Boyd; juniors Jordan Brooks and Cody Reed; and sophomores Jordan Williamson and Justin Edwards.
Wide receivers include seniors Caleb Tier and Drew Cheek and junior Alex Anderson.
At 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds, senior tackle Joe Galle should anchor the offensive line.
The senior-oriented unit will also include tackle Curt Shultz, center Collin Wiggins and guards Jeremy Jacobs and Seth Kelling.
Keller noted his team will use multiple scheme defenses.
The interior line will feature seniors Nate Woodford (end) and Rex Little (nose guard); junior Devin Allnutt (tackle); and sophomore Dane Cullen (end).
Juniors Chris Hinger, Kevin Burdulis and Cameron Grandstaff will man the linebacker positions.
The secondary will include seniors Shane Lester and Aaron Beeman; and juniors Hoar, Jim Perry and Zach Melton.
Junior kicker Corey Sheller and sophomore punter Zack Roden will handle special team duties.
“We have a pretty good number of young men who came out for football,” Keller said. “I’m encouraged with the kids that we have. I’m new to the system and I’m new to the teams that we play. I’m not real familiar, but I’m very happy with the kids that we have. I look forward to working with them.”
Last season, the Yellow Jackets finished fifth in the OCC-Cardinal behind Pickerington Central (5-0), Westerville South (3-2), Olentangy (3-2), Worthington Kilbourne (3-2) and Dublin Jerome (1-4).
Central is again expected to be the team to beat in the division. The Tigers reached the Division II state finals last season, falling to Piqua 26-7.
Mount Vernon’s lone win last season came in the season-opener against Morgan 37-32.
Mount Vernon finished 0-10 in 2005.
“My big thing right now is each time we step out on the field I want to see improvement,” Keller said. “If we can do that and we’re getting better as a football team then I feel good about what we’re doing.”