MONTICELLO — Monticello tailback Jacob Tackett may have gotten more sprint work in at the football team’s opener than he experienced as a 10th-place finisher in the 100 meter at last spring’s IHSA State Track and Field Meet.
Tackett got the Sages on the board in their opener at St. Joseph-Ogden Friday with a first-quarter 82-yard screen pass from quarterback Joey Sprinkle. He also scored on a shovel pass he carried in from 71 yards, and sprinted in on a 58-yard rush to help lead MHS to a 43-8 win in Friday night action.
And while big offensive plays dominated the day for Monticello, coach Cully Welter said it was a defensive move that saved the game.
Already down 8-0 after being pinned between the goal line and their own 10 to start three straight drives, St. Joseph-Ogden looked to extend its lead when Evan Ingram was sprinting toward the goal line. But Spencer Mitze had other thoughts, tracking him down at the Sage 20 yard line. That led to a defensive stand that kept the early deficit to eight points.
“I really think the key to the game was when Ingram was breaking free for a touchdown, Spencer Mitze came and made a touchdown-saving tackle. If they go up by two touchdowns there, this might be a completely different game. We got the big play and suddenly we had the momentum.”
After that it was all Monticello, with Tackett scoring three times, receiver Triston Foran gathering in TD passes of 44 and 64 yards, and senior quarterback Joey Sprinkle tossing four touchdown passes.
By halftime, MHS was up 36-8. Backup quarterback Drew Sheppard wrapped up the scoring with a 10 yard run in the final quarter.
Welter said his squad’s total team speed is down a little from last season, but that Tackett nearly makes up for it on his own.
“If he gets into the open field, he’s going to be hard to corral, and we knew that. He showed that tonight. He’s definitely a big play guy, and we hope that continues,” Welter said.
Tackett shared the credit with his offensive line.
“Our line really came out and blocked. We knew it was going to be a three-yard gain or a 60-yard run, and that’s how we came into the game. I’m just happy we came out and won this game,” the 5’10” running back said.
He added there was no panic when the squad fell behind early.
“We were definitely a little rusty in the first quarter, but we got together, worked out our kinks and played hard in that second quarter and third and opened up the game from there.”
The rust included a couple of tipped passes that turned into interceptions, but Welter was confident his senior quarterback would recover.
“He knows what he can do. That’s the bottom line. I think he knows the team is behind him; he makes a couple mistakes, we know he can make up for them. And he did. He corroborated that tonight.”
Sprinkle ended up completing 9 of 16 passes for 307 yards, four touchdowns and the two picks.
Tackett led the ground attack with 69 yards rushing on six carries, while Sprinkle added 41 yards on five carries. Sheppard rounded it out with 10 yards on two runs.
Foran had 151 yards on five catches from Sprinkle, while Tackett totaled 153 yards on his three catches. Peyton Scott caught the other pass for three yards.
It was an emotional start for SJO, which lost former legendary coach Dick Duvall just a day before to cancer. The school football field had been named after Duvall a week earlier.
Welter said he remembers working with Duvall for one year at Monticello
“He meant a lot to football, but I am just grateful that he came to Monticello and taught for a year, because that’s when I got to know him. I had always respected him as a coach, but that’s when I got to love him as a person. I’m so glad they honored him by naming the field after him. It is well deserved.”
This Friday Monticello hosts IVC in its home opener. The game plan?
Tackett hopes for more of the same.
“I think we look to do the same thing. We want to run the ball, we want to pass the ball, we just want to win.”