In late January, when Monticello activities director Daniel Sheehan and football coach Cullen Welter heard that St. Thomas More would no longer be fielding a team, they had to scramble to fill the open slot on the schedule.

Sheehan started calling schools to replace STM, but unfortunately, he was not able to find an opponent in Illinois.

“In my opinion, it was due to some recent success that we’ve had,” Sheehan said. “We were reaching out to schools, and we did have schools share that they weren’t interested or they were going to keep their options open. So immediately, I got with coach Welter and (assistant coach Mike) Allen.”

Sheehan and the coaches shared documents and created a spreadsheet of potential schools to add to the schedule. They posted a call to fill the Sept. 11 game for teams in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. They even looked at the possibility of playing a team from Missouri or Arkansas.

“We had a regular routine that weekly we would try to do a sweep to see if there were any other teams with an open schedule,” Sheehan said. “The one we were most excited about right before COVID-19 and everything took place, we had an understanding that we would play at Door County (Wisconsin), which was exciting because it was up there by Green Bay, and we figured we’d make a trip out of it and get a tour of the Green Bay faculty.”

Sheehan and the coaches imagined the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime team-bonding opportunity.

“But when we got back from Covid-19 and tried to reconfirm everything, they had the wrong date,” Sheehan said. “Different states have different weeks, and they were looking for a week two (game), and we needed week three. Not all states have the same calendar.”

Once that fell through, it was back to the drawing board. The key for Sheehan and the coaches was to add another game to the schedule.

“At the end of the day, we want a game for our kids,” Sheehan said. “We don’t want to take a game away from our student athletes.”

Then Sheehan got an email from a school in Osceola, Indiana, that was interested in playing the Sages.

So Sheehan researched the Osceola Grace Eagles to make the sure the team matched what Monticello was looking for in a competitive game, size of school and proper facilities.

“The initial email said they had to have a home game,” Sheehan said. “The coaching staff was going to drive up there and get an analysis of their faculties, but luckily enough, I was able to talk them into coming to Monticello for a home game.”

The Sages and Eagles are now under contract to play each other Sept. 11.

The Eagles requested for a later start time, so kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“The way I understand it is that it’s a homeschool organization club football,” Sheehan said. “So it’s made up of student athletes who are homeschooled in Michigan and Indiana. And the IHSA bylaws allow an out-of-state opponent that either has to be approved by the Indiana school association or they have to be approved to play Indiana high school teams. So there’re not a member of the Indiana state association nor do they participate in an Indiana post seasons…I think they play in a national home school football playoff scenario that would be nationwide.”

The coaches have already been scouring game footage and collecting data off MaxPreps about the Eagles.

Monticello is scheduled to kick off its season with a home game Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. against Olympia/Delavan.