FAIRBURY – It’s only two games in, but the gridiron Sages have shown they know how to rise to the occasion.
Last Friday it was against favored Prairie Central on the road, where Monticello trailed 12-7 with just 1:04 left on the clock. One minute and one flea-flicker later, a six-yard TD pass from Joey Sprinkle to Chris Brown gave the football Sages (2-0) an 18-15 win.
“This would definitely be classified as a huge upset,” MHS coach Cully Welter said. “Prairie Central was a heavy pre-season favorite to win the conference this year. They returned 18 starters from a 4A quarterfinalist this year. Our kids get all the credit for trusting in each other and playing with great effort.”
Monticello had taken a 12-7 lead in the final quarter on an 18-yard pass play from Sprinkle to Hayden Graham, only to see the Hawks use a three-minute scoring drive to regain the lead 15-12.
A good kick return from Brown still left the Sages with 44 yards to go and just over a minute left on the clock.
“I was already proud of our kid for the effort they gave throughout the game,” the Sages coach said. “After Prairie Central scored, one of our receivers (Triston Foran) was letting his teammates know they had left too much time on the clock and that we could still win this game.”
Down to their last play, the Sages pulled a trick play out, handing the ball off then flipping it back to Sprinkle, who found Brown in the end zone for the improbable victory.
Almost as improbable were all three Monticello touchdowns, all coming on long down and distance plays, including a fourth-down TD.
The Sages cut the lead to 7-6 near the end of the first half on a 13-yard TD strike from Sprinkle to Foran.
“We are definitely physically outmatched in the trenches, but our kids have demonstrated a propensity to keep fighting to the whistle and throughout the game, and that is the single biggest factor behind their early success,” Welter said.
Sprinkle passed for three touchdowns on 9 of 21 passing, good for 125 yards. Foran was his favorite receiver, hauling in four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Graham and Brown also had scores.
The MHS junior quarterback also led the team on the ground with 46 yards on 13 carries.
On defense, Hunter Williams nabbed an interception, while Jason Brown and Kaleb Reid registered sacks.
The Sages are already making a habit of coming back in contests this season. In game one versus Bloomington Central Catholic, Monticello surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive before shutting down the Saints to earn a 20-7 win.
Rantoul up next
Monticello returns home to host Rantoul this Friday. It will be Rantoul’s first contest after seeing two canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
“So we have no film on them, but we will have to continue to play with the same energy if we want to build on our first two victories,” Welter said.