I wrote a story for today’s paper about the Mount Vernon football program, which began this 2010 season with just 39 players in its program, JV and varsity combined. The number is low, but especially for the section’s fourth-largest school and the 14th-largest school in the state.
Through my reporting for this story, I found two things to be true. First, Mount Vernon’s football program still faces the aftereffects of the 2008 school-budget crisis that nearly did away with fall sports that year. Players left the program that summer because of the uncertainty. Those who stayed spent important preparation time fundraising. This was a story two years ago, but it remains an ongoing story. Not only did Mount Vernon win just two games in 2008, hurting its reputation in the eyes of potential players, it saw players already in high school leave the program for good.
The other factor is also ongoing. According to head coach Ric Wright, more and more players leave the program for schools throughout the area. Wright said in the story that he doesn’t mind when a player leaves because his family can afford to send him to a Catholic school in search of a better education. He just doesn’t believe this is always the case. And Catholic schools cannot offer athletic scholarship to athletes, who must pass an academic entrance exam before they are allowed to enroll, just like the rest of the students.
Wright used to coach in Mount Vernon’s renowned Razorbacks youth football program. But that program now feeds far more than just his program. In fact, as you probably know, recent local stars from the Razorbacks who played outside of Mount Venron reads like a who’s who: Rashaad Slowley (Stepinac); Jeff Mack, Tyrae-Woodson Samuels and Darlos James (Iona Prep); Calvin McCoy (Fordham Prep); Trevor Saunders (Dobbs Ferry); and Jayson Holt (Mount St. Michael). While it’s true that some aren’t Mount Vernon residents (like Mack and McCoy), a number of them are.
Despite all this, Mount Vernon remains hopeful for the season. Two of the budding stars who stayed home are pictured above: pass-rusher extraordinaire Darien Burnside and middle linebacker Sherlon Bacchus, who looks like a potential breakout star. Both said the issues are not a concern once the Knights step on the field.
“We’re not even worried about that,” Burnside said. “We’re just focused on football.”