Maybe it was the Thursday night start. Or maybe it was the pressure of expectations. Better yet, maybe it was just a couple of well-played possessions by the opponent.
Whatever it was, the Monticello Magic football team got off to a slow start on Thursday, as they struggled to move the ball on their first two possessions.
But then, a spark.
After the Magic turned the ball over on downs inside the Duluth Denfeld red zone, they sent their defense out to get the ball back. They did one better. Will Bauman stepped in front of a pass in the right flat and with no one around him he secured the interception and coasted in for the first touchdown of the game.
“Will made a spark,” said Coach Jason Telecky. “Then we had sparks happening all over the place.”
Indeed, Bauman’s touchdown was the first of six first-half scores as Monticello raced to a 40-0 half time lead on their way to a 47-0 season opening win.
“We had butterflies in the stomach,” said Bauman. “[We were] maybe a little nervous. But the second and third series we bounced back. And we just kept going.”
By the time it was all said and done, the Magic had picked up right where they left off last year, displaying a bruising ground game with breakaway capability to run lesser teams into the ground.
Monticello ran for 341 yards in the game, led by junior Jake Olson’s 97 yards on just seven carries. He also took the torch from Bauman and provided big sparks for the Magic offense in the second quarter.
From about 12 yards out, Olson provided the first offensive touchdown by taking an inside run and bouncing it out to the right where he won a spring to the pylon to put Monticello ahead 14-0.
After a Michael Witschen sack turned the Hunters over on downs, Olson turned in the most impressive play of the evening.
With just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, Olson took a handoff near midfield and headed toward the left sideline. He broke two tackles to get near the sideline, and two more once he got there. Suddenly, he was galloping down the sidelines all by himself on his way to a second touchdown in a matter of minutes.
“He looked like (former L.A. Rams great) Eric Dickerson running down the sideline,” said Telecky. “He has speed and size, which is a rare combination.”
For the remainder of the first half, Monticello bullied Duluth with a mix of Olson, Bauman, Sam Johnson and Birk Olson.
Bauman found the end zone again, this time on a pitch, with 7:44 remaining to give the Magic three touchdowns in less than four minutes (aided by a fumbled kick return by Duluth).
The next possession saw Bauman break a 44 yard run, setting up Birk Olson to punch it into the end zone from a couple of yards out and push the Magic lead to 33-0.
Birk Olson carried the momentum to defense where his textbook strip of the running back set the Magic up for their final score of the half. Quarterback Matt Bonk, who threw much better than the numbers indicated (due to three dropped passes) hit tight end Jack Fair for a 58-yard touchdown to give the Magic a 40-0 lead and cap the most impressive quarter Telecky has seen since taking the program over four years ago.
“Hands down,” said Telecky, when asked if the quarter was the best he’s seen.
“It became a snowball rolling down a hill.”
The outrageous offensive output was matched by the efforts of the defense Thursday.
“Defense was awesome,” said Telecky. “We’ve made a huge effort this year on working on turnovers.”
Thursday, it paid off. Monticello forced four first half turnovers, and turned those into 21 points.
Besides a couple of traditional standouts, including Birk Olson, Monticello also got stellar play from Adam Rossberg, a wide receiver who has been converted to defensive tackle. Rossberg picked up five tackles, including 1.5 sacks to help set the tone at the line of scrimmage on Thursday.
The Magic were winning the line of scrimmage all night on the offensive side of the ball as well. The line opened up big holes for each and every one of the eight running backs that ran for positive gains on the way to the team racking up 341 yards rushing and 452 yards of total offense.
“Our line did a really great job, they were getting all of their responsibilities done,” said Bauman. “Some of the runs we had, our running backs really didn’t get touched.”
Certainly, the Magic were on fire for much of Thursday’s victory. But as always, it all started with a spark.
Passing: Matt Bonk 4-10, 111 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: Jack Fair: 1 catch-58 yards, 1 TD; Hayden Laimer: 2-35; Michael Witschen: 1-18.
Rushing: Jake Olson: 7 carries-97 yards, 2 touchdown; Will Bauman: 4-81, 1; Collin Scherber 7-65, 1; Birk Olson, 10-47, 1; Nick Bombersine: 5-27; Sam Johnson: 6-16.