MOUNT CARMEL -- On the heels of an emotional 42-14 victory over Harrisburg, Mount Carmel Head Football Coach Michael Brewer's expecting a challenge as his team hosts Mount Vernon (Ind.), a former Big Eight Conference foe.
The Wildcats (1-1) had Mount Carmel's number last season on Mount Vernon's home turf, defeating the Aces 41-12. Brewer recalls the frustrating September night, a night in which his team made an abundance of mental errors. If they're to defeat the Wildcats this time around that'll have to be remedied.
"They're a good football team, athletic receivers, good quarterback, they have a lot of those guys back, the quarterback, receivers and stuff," Brewer said. "Coach Brunson does a really nice job, their offense is always a test in week two. We have to be fundamentally sound and have to align ourselves correctly. Last year in that game we had alignment issues throughout. You can't get yourself into third-and-four and have a guy uncovered or whatever it is."
Entering week two, Mount Vernon already has a pair of games under their belt, a 36-0 loss to Heritage Hills and a 56-24 victory over North Posey, giving the Wildcats further game experience thus far than the Aces.
Mount Vernon offers a stark contrast to what the Aces saw in week one with Harrisburg. The Wildcats employ a pass-heavy offense, highlighted by senior quarterback Rhett Snodgrass and senior wide receiver Breckan Austin. The Snodgrass-Austin connection was responsible for 200 of Snodgrass' 264 passing yards in their 56-24 week two victory over North Posey.
As lethal as that connection can be, Brewer was non committal to the notion the Aces would devote extra attention to the tandem. He felt the Aces did so when they gameplanned to stop former Mount Vernon standout Sam Thomas in last year's game, but to their detriment.
"Last year going into that game we felt like Sam Thomas was a kid we really had to be a kid to take away and I think it really ended up being too much for our kids," Brewer spoke of containing Snodgrass and Austin. "I want to play within want we do, I don't want to make these big adjustments where we're trying to learn new things this week. I don't think that served the kids well last year, it made them think and when we think we're not playing fast. We're going to try to stay out of that as much as we can, the Austin kid is a very good player and Snodgrass throws the ball well."
It'll offer the Mount Carmel veteran-laden secondary their first test. They'll be attacked early and often by Snodgrass, who will try to take advantage of their mishaps. Against Harrisburg they weren't really tested, with the Bulldogs' running game primarily being the staple of their offense.
Two keys to closely monitor throughout the game; Mount Vernon's attempted seven fourth downs thus far this season (42.9 percent conversion rate), meaning the Aces will have to be disciplined and stout defensively.
Brewer has spoke often about the importance of the Aces' run game, which found success in week one, totaling 222 yards on the ground. The Wildcats through two games are surrendering an average of 168.5 rushing yards per game to opponents through their first two games -- meaning Aces sophomore running back Zeke Hadra could be in line for a big game. Hadra totaled 225 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in the Aces' week one victory.
If the Aces can find success in both areas, they should be in tremendous position to win the game.
"They're an aggressive offense, good on offense and aggressive," Brewer spoke of the Wildcats offense. "They take shots, they'll have a trick play here and there and they're not shy about that. Again, alignment and then executing the things we talked about in being lined up correctly and making plays. We have to be able to get off the field on those fourth downs."
"We have to find consistent success in the run game. No big plays defensively, we have to be consistently moving the ball forward to stay out of negative situations and be able to run the ball."
The Aces enter the game banged up, with some injuries nagging the team after just one week of play.
Brewer has yet to officially name who the starting quarterback will be for Friday, but expressed support for both senior Aden Gill and junior quarterback Kaleb Applebey. Applebey was dressed last week, but was unable to play following his preseason knee injury.
Gill played in Applebey's absence, tossing for 176 yards on 6-of-7 attempts for a pair of touchdowns. There's optimism that Applebey should be able to suit up, but a final verdict won't be issued until shortly prior to kickoff.
"We hope to have him back," Brewer said. "He'll do a little more in practice this week, so we'll just kind of see on Friday and judge it that way. Whether it's Aden or Kaleb, I feel great about those guys and their ability, the things they can do. But we'll be good either way and we'll know closer to Friday."
It appears as if the Aces will be without brothers Elijah Laws and Luke Laws -- the eldest, Elijah, being a senior and Luke being a sophomore. The linemen were hurt in Mount Carmel's week one victory, with Elijah's injury coming on the first drive of the game and Luke's occurring in the fourth quarter. One suffered a torn ACL, the other a lower leg fracture.
Brewer did confirm that barring an unforseen circumstance, both will miss the remainder of the season. Opening a void on the line -- though Elijah didn't get a single snap offensively, so his injury was quickly addressed. Luke's injury will be one the Aces will attempt to quickly bridge.
"Huge injuries, those guys are two of our very best linemen on both sides of the football," Brewer said. "Our guys did a great job of stepping up and filling in those spots, we're going to have to ask some more guys to do that now. We're going to have additional rotators defensively, we'll ask Jonas Martin to step in as Luke's replacement, so we had shuffled guys around [offensively] prior to that first series too. We moved Elliot Laws to where Elijah normally plays and Eli Swanson came into the game and did a nice job. We had guys step up and we need guys to continue to step up."
Kickoff for the game is slated for 7 p.m., with the school honoring their State Runner-Up teams at halftime. A reception will follow the game at Stymie's Rest at West Berwick, with the reception open to former players, coaches and the public.
Mount Carmel is seeking its first win over Mount Vernon since 2016 and boasts a 2-3 record against the Wildcats since 2014.