Feature Story

Mounties one win away from state berth


NEW MARKET — Southmont football prefers the underdog role.

After posting a 4-5 record in the regular season, the Mounties were hardly favorites in a sectional that featured six teams with winning records.

And then Southmont started to roll. First, a 32-21 win over Sullivan, followed by a 22-21 overtime win over Cascade.

The 36-34 overtime win at AP No. 2 Linton Stockton gave the Mounties their first sectional title in school history two weeks ago. A win that proved doubters wrong and boosted the confidence of a senior-led team — proving to everyone else something they already knew.

This Southmont football team is as good as any Mountie team that came before them.

Last week, back at home for the regional championship, the question marks continued. But led by senior tailback Wyatt Woodall, the historic season marched on with a 41-34 win over Eastern Hancock.

“We love to be here,” Woodall said. “There’s nowhere we’d rather be. The only place we can go from here is up. And if everybody is doubting us, that’s a lot of heads to turn when we win.”

Woodall ran for 267 yards on 33 carries and four scores in the win over Eastern Hancock, including two late touchdowns that setup a semi-state road trip to North Posey this Saturday.

The Vikings sit at 12-1 and enter the game ranked No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the coaches poll. They are the highest AP poll ranked team remaining in Class 2A. North Posey beat AP No. 1 Triton Central 28-13 in the regional final last week.

Southmont doesn’t care how the teams match up on paper though.

“I think the big thing is we want it more,” Mountie senior Marlin Williams said. “I think we want it more than any team we’ve played. I don’t think we are necessarily better than some of the teams we’ve played, but I think just the heart this team has, is unlike any team we’ve played throughout the entire season.”

Williams is third on the team with 102 tackles despite being a first-year starter.

Southmont posted a 7-4 record a season ago. And after graduating quarterback Nick Scott and wingback Carson Chadd, many wondered who would fill the holes around Woodall for the Mountie offense in 2023.

The answer has been a perfect combination of players stepping up when they’ve been needed most.

“I give my props to the coaches there,” Woodall said. “They found a couple of game plan adjustments to get Kyler McCandless a little more involved. Nolan Boyer has been playing at a super high level, and that’s obviously helpful. Aaron McMasters has always been really good for us. It’s just a matter of finding our other athletes and getting them a lot more involved.”

Woodall has totaled 1358 rushing yards on 217 carries and ran for 24 touchdowns, while Boyer has added 1477 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air and another 719 yards and six scores on the ground.

McCandless has 691 receiving yards on 37 catches and seven touchdowns.

And the Mounties making plays with the game on the line. Something 17-year veteran coach Desson Hannum hopes will continue.

“You are excited to be in this position, and I think you have to remember how you got into this position,” he said. “You’ve played very strong defensively for the most part. We’ve been able to put up 30+ points per game, and we’ve been in these situations where we’ve been able to make the play when we had to.”

The success the last four weeks though is by no accident.

For this senior class, the leadership and experience in high-pressure situations has built up to this point.

“There’s a lot of upperclassmen and we definitely have that connection, and it definitely makes everything more electric and we are bonded. The senior leadership is definitely very good this year,” McCandless said.

For many players, it’s a ‘been there, done that,’ type of mindset. Basketball players, wrestlers, baseball players, and track stars – the Mountie roster is full of multi-sport athletes.

“As a coach, I grew up playing three sports,” Hannum said. “You want multiple sport athletes on your team. It gives them more opportunities to play in competitive situations and the more competitive situations they’re able to play in, the more they can transfer that to the football field.”

And for many guys like Williams and Woodall, it’s been the sport of wrestling that’s helped set the stage.

“They are two very similar sports mentally,” Williams said. “Wrestling is obviously a very tough sport and that kind of translates to football. We’ve been to overtime two times, and I think the other teams are getting tired, and I think wrestling has helped us set that mindset that you just have to keep pushing one more minute.”

As a junior, Woodall qualified for the state finals in wrestling under the coaching of Jamie Welliever.

And when the Mounties suit up on Saturday afternoon at North Posey, it will be the deepest state tournament run for a Southmont boys’ team since Welliever’s wrestling team won the semi-state in 2001.

Again, no coincidence.

“He’s a great leader,” Woodall said of Welliever. “He’s been around the sport (wrestling) for an extremely long time. He knows how to teach us and give us the right advice to go out and win matches that we shouldn’t win. And I think that’s a metaphor for what we’ve been doing here. We haven’t been picked to win most of any of these games. But that attitude that he gives onto us, and that don’t take anything from anybody mindset that you kind of have to have to be a good wrestler is obviously carrying over into what we are doing through the tournament this year.”

It’s that same hard work and determination that coaches like Welliever have instilled in their athletes that Hannum has built the Mountie football program on over the better part of the last two decades.

“It would be hard pressed to say there’s been a lot of teams that have been this way, but the kids that we have right now, they’ve been very humble about the situation,” Hannum said of this group. “They’ve been hungry and they’ve continued to want to play.”

On the field Saturday, the Mounties will face a Vikings offense that averages 39 points a game and has scored 60 rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback Liam Stone has completed 49-84 passes for 958 yards and ran for another 950 yards and 20 touchdowns. Junior running-back Jed Galvin has 1220 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns, while Colton Gardner has added 926 rushing yards for a team that only graduated two seniors from last year.

Jace Gauer leads a North Posey defense that has only allowed 10 points per game with 113 tackles. North Posey’s only loss came 10-0 to Heritage Hills, who is playing Gibson Southern for a Class 3A semi-state title on Friday night. The Vikings have allowed one score or less in seven of their 13 games.

Saturday will be a game that’ll feature two run-heavy teams capable of making big plays. And as difficult as it will be for the Mounties stop the Vikings backfield trio of Stone, Galvin, and Gardner — North Posey will have to find answers for Southmont.

“We haven’t seen anybody this year really similar to the Woodall kid. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s physical,” North Posey coach Waylon Schenk said. “I think the big thing for us is matching the physicality of Southmont’s o-line and the Woodall kid, and making sure we don’t let the quarterback (Boyer) get loose, because he’s as fast as anybody we’ve seen.”

It’s another week where on paper the Mountie’s opponent appears to be the better team.

And another game where Southmont has something to prove — just one win away from a state finals berth — which would become the ultimate underdog story.