A week after suffering a sprained neck in a game against Rantoul that sent him to the hospital, Monticello senior Matt Kerr was back on the field making big plays in front of a homecoming crowd Friday.
Kerr deflected back-to-back passes inside the 10-yard line on third and fourth downs as Bloomington Central Catholic attempted to score with less than eight seconds remaining.
“I did not think I was going to be playing (Friday),” Kerr said. “A little bit of PTSD walking out here. I was really nervous about my neck even though I felt 100 percent.”
Kerr finished with five receptions for 88 yards and those two huge defensive plays to help the Sages survive a 21-14 victory against the Saints.
“A win’s a win,” he said. “We worked hard. It was a little rough the first two quarters but we got it done.”
Monticello trailed 14-7 entering halftime as BCC sophomore running back Jake Slaughter punched in two touchdown runs in the second quarter.
The Sages were stopped on fourth and goal at the Saints’ 1-yard line just before the end of the first half, and then again in the same situation at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a chance to extend a 21-14 lead.
“In the first half, obviously this falls on coaching, but I’d argue 50 percent of our plays there was either a missed assignment, a missed read or a missed block,” coach Cully Welter said. “We just can’t get out of our own way there. But we still made enough plays and you can see what we’re capable of. We have some playmakers if we do the little things right. It’s one thing to run the right thing, but if you don’t do the little things right then it doesn’t really matter. We’re not as attentive to details as I would like and I’m hoping we improve in that area.”
The Monticello defense managed to keep BCC out the end zone in the second half to give the Sages a chance to hold on.
“I didn’t want to go to overtime,” Welter said. “Momentum would have been on their side, feeling like we left a lot of points on the field. I would hate to have to overcome a touchdown there at the end. I was really excited the kids came through with a couple big tip plays.
“I give Coach (Michael) Allen a lot of credit. He works his butt off as a coach. He had a good gameplan this week.”
Despite being 1-4, the Saints haven’t allowed more than 28 points in a game and have been within one score in three of their four losses.
“I think Coach Braucht is doing a really good job. They had a good core or kids coming back,” Welter said. “(Jack Moews) is a player. The quarterback’s really improved this year. (Slaughter) is only a sophomore and he runs hard. They’ve got some big boys up front and they’re disciplined. They’re back to being Central Catholic. The future is bright for them, I think. We knew it was going to be a challenge.”
The Saints’ future almost began Friday night on homecoming for the team coming off a state championship.
Until Kerr and the Monticello defense turned them away one last time.
“We knew they were going to doing those short, flat routes on the goal line. They had been doing that on the goal line all day,” Kerr said. “Thankfully, with my height, I was able to get up there and deflect it.”