MONTICELLO — It is clear that the Monticello High School football team can put up points.
But last Friday (Sept. 10) on the road at Stanford, the squad first had to figure out how to stop the run-heavy offense of Olympia, led by its sizable lineman.
For the third time in three games, the Sages saw itself in a battle early, but responded well to take another victory, this time 46-22.
“Olympia had a huge size advantage against us, so we knew we were going to be challenged to defend their running game.” Sages coach Cully Welter said.
As if on cue, the Spartans (1-2) came out and ran the ball 11 times in its first possession, driving 57 yards to earn a touchdown. A two-point conversion gave OHS an 8-0 lead.
That was the score entering the second quarter, when Monticello (3-0) cut it to 8-7 on a 29-yard pass play from Joey Sprinkle to Jacob Tackett, who scored five times on the night.
“We always want to try to take advantage of his speed, and we know if we can get him to the second level, he has a chance to go a long way,” Welter said of his speedy tailback.
The Sages then got stingy on defense, allowing just two more scores, one each in the second and third quarters. Meanwhile, MHS’ explosive offense erupted for 27 points in the second quarter to go up 27-14 at the half.
Sprinkle capped the rally off by scrambling 44 yards into the end zone as time expired in the second quarter, extending the lead from six to 13 points.
“It was a huge play because we were getting the ball to start the second half, and I think it took a lot of air out of the sails of Olympia,” Welter added. “It was a great play by Joey and he picked up a couple of nice blocks by Spencer Mitze and Peyton Scott.”
After a few drives without scoring to start the third quarter, Monticello extended the lead to 34-14 on a five-yard run by Sprinkle with 5:51 left in the frame.
Olympia responded immediately with a 67-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 34-22, but the Sages helped salt the game away with a quick drive in the final quarter that culminated in a one-yard touchdown rush by Tackett. The senior standout added a five-yard run just over two minutes later to make for the final 24-point margin of victory.
Welter said his squad is getting better each week, noting he felt their level of play was higher than the previous week against IVC.
“I thought we played much better. We had fewer assignment errors and had a more consistent effort. Our tackling was still inconsistent and we fumbled the ball too many times, but I was much more pleased with the effort,” Welter stated.
Tackett ran for 116 yards on 16 carries, and had touchdown runs of 4, 20, 2 and 5 yards, along with the 29-yard TD pass from Sprinkle.
Sprinkle ended up leading the team in both passing and rushing, with 262 yards in the air on 12 of 20 passing, along with 121 yards running on 12 carries.
Triston Foran led receivers with four catches for 82 yards, with Mitze adding 73 yards on two receptions.
MHS returns home to host Bloomington Central Catholic Friday in a clash of two of the three undefeated teams in the Illini Prairie Conference. The other 3-0 team is Unity.
“BCC is on a nice roll, and they play with a lot of energy and confidence. They look like they are physical and they have one of the best athletes in the conference (Jake Slaughter), so we are going to have to match their toughness and be sharp in our keys and assignments,” said the coach.