MOUNT VERNON, Texas — 2017 is turning into a special season for head coach Josh Finney and his Mount Vernon Tigers. His team is off to an 8-0 start and after a convincing 60-21 win over defending Class 3A Division I champion Mineola, the East Texas school has now started to turn heads across the state.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re working with a football team or a large company, kids or employees will rise to the expectations you set,” Finney said of his team’s start, “It’s important to have high expectations. You have to believe each and every week that you can go out there and attain it.”
In this case, “it” is a new territory that the Tigers have not been in for quite a while. Prior to making the playoffs last season, Mount Vernon had not played postseason football since 2005.
On top of that, former head coach Dickie Meeks had to step away from the team last season due to health problems. Finney took over as acting head coach and was able to lead the Tigers into the playoffs. Making that run was a step forward, but Finney knew he had a potentially great group.
“This group is really special. They’ve had some success when they were younger. It’s all about trying to piece it all back together and get the guys winning again and taking care of each other. It’s just really been fun to be around a group of guys who don’t care who gets the credit.”
Last Friday’s game against Mineola confirmed Finney’s philosophy. The Tigers ran up and down the Yellowjackets defense, rushing for 503 yards and had six players rush for over 40 yards.
“I just noticed there was a different sense of urgency,” Finney said of his team’s preparation, “That whole week the team prepared liked they had something to prove.”
Two of those standouts, junior quarterback Kason Pletcher and senior running back John Haller, each ran for over 100 yards and Finney credits the pair for bringing leadership and a tough nature to the Tigers.
“Kason is the leader of our team,” Finney said of his quarterback, “He’s one of those athletes that you don’t get to coach very often and he’s a better kid than he is a quarterback.”
He had the same high praise for Haller.
“As for John, we call him Johnny Boy. He’s a downhill runner and he’s going to run straight. If there’s something in his way, there’s going to be a collision and that’s the way he likes it. Any time you can coach good young men, it’s a good thing. I’m just proud of both of them.”
And with just two games to go, the Tigers know that there’s still a lot to play for. After a game with Quitman on Friday, Mount Vernon will take on Farmersville in a game that will likely decide who wins the district title. Moving forward, Finney believes that his team can be special but knows they have to be ready to take care of business.
“Complacency is a problem in our society and a challenge for teams. That’s why it’s hard for a lot of championship teams at any level to win the next year,” Finney said, “I think you have to find a way to fight through that and demand more. It’s human nature to be a survivor but it’s tough to go to every film room or weight room session and try to be great. It’s hard to be great all the time and I think we can do that but I can’t let my team fall into a trap of complacency.”
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