Mount Vernon High School football coach Gary Keller saw solid improvement in his team last season.

Mount Vernon High School football coach Gary Keller saw solid improvement in his team last season.

Now the third-year coach is optimistic that the improvement will result in more wins.

"This team comes with more guys ready to compete and contribute," he said. "We have a nice junior and senior class, who played a lot last year. This is a good football team in every sense."

The Yellow Jackets finished 1-9 last season, with the lone win 22-20 against first-year Olentangy Orange in the OCC-Capital Division opener during week four. It marked Mount Vernon's first league win in five years.

Mount Vernon lost its final two games in good showings. It hung tough against OCC-Capital champion Big Walnut in week nine before falling 28-6. The Yellow Jackets then lost to New Albany 3-0 in the finale.

"We became very competitive late last year," said Keller, whose team gave up nearly 27 points per game and averaged just under 11 on offense. "The kids were ready to play. That gives me optimism going into this year. Our team has matured and will surprise a lot of people this year."

Mount Vernon has 57 players in grades 10-12 on the roster, and Keller expects half of those will see action.

He believes defense will be the Yellow Jackets' strength with nine starters back.

Senior middle linebacker Alec Curry leads the returnees, who also include seniors Matt Boucher (CB), Ethan Grant (FS), Derek Baker (weak-side LB) and John Fernandez (DE).

The Yellow Jackets will run a combination of 4-3 and 5-2 formations, with Jim Perry (strongside LB) and Cody Reed (middle LB) also seeing action.

Others expected to contribute include Cody Green (CB), Luke Armstrong (SS). Jeremiah Hoar (DE), Dane Cullen (NG) and Devin Allnutt (DT).

"Good teams are built around strong defense and special teams," Keller said. "If we can do well in those areas, the offense will carry us."

Offensively, Brian Hoar is back at quarterback as the Jackets prepare for their second season in the wing-T.

Junior Jordan Williamson will be the tailback, with Jordan Brooks at fullback and Justin Edwards at wingback.

The offense will focus on play-action, with one- and two-back options.

Alex Anderson returns at split end and Tray Williams will be the tight end.

The line will include Curry (center), Allnut (strong guard), Zak Palmer (strong tackle), Ben Metcalfe (quick guard) and Travis Fannin (quick tackle).

The schedule will test the Yellow Jackets early. After playing host Friday to Lexington, which went 11-1 last season and reached a Division II regional semifinal, they will play three games in a row on the road.

"We'll play one game at a time," Keller said. "It doesn't bother me to play on the road. If we can stay healthy, then we have an opportunity to be successful."