Sages heading to first state title football game!

The football team in Monticello is good. Very good. Very, very good.

The Sages are outstanding. Fantastic. Record-setting.

And, so far, Monticello has been unmatched.

Truth be told, there aren’t enough adjectives to adequately describe just how good the Sages have been this season. And, honestly, it’s been a bit difficult to capture how impressive the team has played week in and week out.

There just hasn’t been much drama, if any, this season. But that can happen when an extraordinary team makes every other team look mundane.

And it happened this past Saturday when top-seeded Monticello ended second-seeded Carlinville’s season in a 40-14 victory. Two undefeated teams in the Class 3A state semifinal and the Sages still held a 34-0 lead and won by 26.

“It feels really nice considering (two years ago) we didn’t quite make it,” junior Henry Dawson said. “It was a similar score but we were the losing team. To be able to come back and beat a team like Carlinville this way is really nice and we’re really excited.”

How do you put into words how dominant this team has been?

Well, there are the stats, which speak for themselves.

Likely Area Player of the Year Braden Snyder has thrown for 3,131 yards and 39 touchdowns to eight interceptions entering Friday’s state championship game.

Asher Bradd has caught 57 passes for 1,008 yards and 10 TDs. Devin Graham is nearing 1,000 yards as well (947) and has 13 touchdowns.

Alek Bundy has rushed for 920 yards and 13 TDs and has caught seven other scores.

Kicker Luke Rudolph had only missed one point after touchdown before two sailed wide in tough field conditions Saturday.

And the playmakers on defense continued to rack up tackles and force turnovers Saturday. Carlinville gave the ball up on offense four times and Dawson led the Sages with 15 tackles.

The margin of victory of 26 points on Saturday was the closest any team has been to the Sages after four quarters of play.

Or, you can simply say: This is the best Monticello football team in school history. The Sages are undefeated and headed to the state championship for the first time. Ever.

The Monticello offense has a counter to every defensive counter. Press coverage? Throw over the top to Graham. Blitz? Screen passes to Bundy or Matt Kerr. Keep everything in front? Quick timing routes and a run game that can get chunk yardage.

Couple that with a defense that has the athletes to scheme against any type of offense and you have a well-rounded juggernaut that methodically wins each week with seemingly ease.

“Our kids just have this confidence,” Monticello coach Cully Welter said. “Confidence in what they do and that they can be successful against anyone.”

That confidence has trickled down to everyone around the program as well.

The Sages fans and the community as a whole haven’t failed to realize the quality of this team. Signs lined both sides of Bridge Street from the Interstate 72 exit into town. The bleachers were packed on a cold, sometimes-wet November afternoon. The same bleachers that volunteers cleared of snow after a Thursday coating.

“This was so awesome to see the community come together and support our football team,” Monticello principal Adam Clapp said.

Volunteers worked on removing the snow from bleachers from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, including the wrestling team, which spent its practice time helping.

The grounds crew took 3.5 hours to clear most of the snow from the field and volunteers returned Friday with garden rakes, leaf blowers and wheelbarrows to finish the job.

“Unbelievable support from the community,” Sages athletics director Dan Sheehan said.

That effort doesn’t go unnoticed by coaches.

“I’m just happy for our kids and for the community,” Welter said after the win Saturday. “The community is hungry, very hungry. It shows with the people we had out here shoveling snow. The support is amazing.”

Or players.

“The atmosphere is amazing. I just love it,” junior Kerr said. “Our fans are always on their feet. They’re supporting us; we’re supporting each other.

“We’re just a dream team here.”

If those words can’t do it, none will.

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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