The Mount Vernon football team’s evening of offensive dominance started with a physical 11-play, 52-yard touchdown drive that featured 10 running plays. It ended with junior running back Dennis Mensah racing 50 yards untouched for his second score of the contest. And somewhere between was a team developing a swagger and a belief that it has what it takes to make some noise in the National District.
Mensah rushed for 202 yards and Mount Vernon produced its highest point total in two years during a 37-20 victory at Washington-Lee on Oct. 15. The Majors totaled 260 yards on the ground and improved their record to 3-4, including 3-1 in the district. Mount Vernon finished 0-10 in 2009 and its previous victories this season were by eight and three points, respectively. Only once in six games had Mount Vernon scored more than 17 points — a season-opening 55-20 loss to West Potomac.
Against the Generals, a team that entered the game with a 2-1 district record, the Majors made plays and carried themselves with confidence.
"We really needed to get going against somebody, which we hadn’t done all year," first-year Mount Vernon head coach Barry Wells said. "I know that the talent was there, but the kids needed to understand that if we can execute or come close to executing the game plan that we can put some numbers on the board."
The Majors didn’t waste any time getting to work, scoring a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Ten run plays spread between four ball carriers and a 14-yard pass from Robert Decardi-Nelson to Julien Randolph produced a 4-yard touchdown run from Sadiq Oyedele and a lead the Majors would not relinquish.
"We wanted to establish the running game," Wells said. "We knew that [the Generals] watched us run on every film that they saw. My thing is, that’s what we do and you’re going to have to show me that you can stop it."
W-L didn’t stop the Majors’ ground game, allowing three Mount Vernon tailbacks to reach the end zone. Senior Emmanuel Tackie rushed 12 times for 31 yards and a touchdown and junior Oyedele carried seven times for 18 yards and a score.
"Their opening drive was our major concern," W-L head coach Josh Shapiro said. "We talked all week if they were going to go north and south and we couldn’t wrap up, make tackles and come downhill and play, it was going to be a long night."
Mensah, the team’s biggest back at 5 feet 11, 164 pounds, did most of the damage. No. 4 is primarily a tailback, but he lined up at fullback when he broke free for a 50-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"Now that we see that we can win a couple games," said Mensah, who gave credit to the offensive line after the game, "we’re gaining confidence."
Prior to the season, Wells did not mention Mensah as one of the team’s primary ball carriers. On Friday, Wells said the running back worked his way into the mix after an attitude adjustment.
"He kind of just popped up," Wells said. "Dennis had some buy-into-the-program issues early on. I don’t think Dennis felt like I was a stick-to-the-guns kind of coach; that he’d be able to kind of do it his way. One day he came into the office and he said, ‘I feel like I’m better than everybody you’ve got running the ball.’ I said, ‘Well, the problem with that is you’re not doing the right things. As soon as you do the right things, we’ll find out if you’re the best guy.’
"I think he heard the message. He’s proven he runs hard. Of the three tailbacks, he’s the strongest back."
Mount Vernon also found success through the air, completing 7 of 9 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Senior Tre Cooke took over at quarterback late in the second quarter and finished 5-of-6 for 44 yards, including a 10-yard scoring strike to Julien Randolph that gave the Majors a 31-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Randolph, who made impact plays on both sides of the ball, said the team has a different mentality this season. Mount Vernon’s next test will be a home game against Falls Church at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 22. The following week, the Majors will travel to face Yorktown, which sits atop the district standings at 4-0.
"We can make a lot of noise [in the district; we’re] way better than last year," Randolph said. "The excitement [level is greater]. We all focus in practice and everybody’s excited, even on walk-throughs. We’re all getting hyped, ready to hit."