Last Friday night, the Magic was stopped.
Playing at home against Rogers, Monticello had chances throughout their homecoming matchup. They had chances to take the lead. They had chances to narrow the gap. They had a chance to tie the game. And lastly, as they saw it, they had a chance to win.
But the Magic missed opportunities at the most inopportune times, dropping their first game of the 2012 season, and falling back into a three-way tie atop the Mississippi 8 conference.
The biggest opportunity came last for the Magic. Trailing 10-7, Monticello took possession around their own 30 with just over three minutes remaining.
Methodically, Matt Bonk marched the Magic down the field in the direction of a possible game tying or winning score.
With the time running down, and the noise from the explosive crowd racheting up, the Magic moved the ball across midfield. With just over a minute remaining, Bonk completed a skinny post to Michael Witschen (that he was inches away from turning into a touchdown) that set the home team in the ’84 throwbacks up at the 13-yard line. The stage was set for Magic homecoming.
But after three incompletions, momentum had been halted. Now, momentum, the game, and a whole lot more was hanging on one play.
Most expected a Magic field goal attempt (30-yards) to try and tie the game. After a brief delay, that was about to come true. The field goal unit was sent out to force overtime. But when Rogers used a time-out to get their defense set up, Magic coach Jason Telecky had a change of heart.
“I wanted to go for it, I wanted to win,” said Telecky, after the game. “We had a chance to win the conference, get the one seed in the section, and take Rogers off their pedestal … all in one shot.”
With an estimated 4,000 people watching on, the offense went back on the field and Monticello took their shot. They missed. A slant pass from Bonk to Will Bauman was well thrown but better defended, falling harmlessly to the ground with just seconds remaining on the clock.
When Rogers offense came out to take a knee, that clock ran to zero, and Monticello was left staring at their first loss, on homecoming no less, and a handful of missed opportunities.
Not all is lost for Monticello. Not by a long shot. The best Magic start in decades still has them in position to control their own destiny in the conference and the section. Friday just offered the chance to slam the door shut on teams trying to catch the Magic in those races.
That chance presented itself more than once Friday. The Magic faced their first big opportunity during the second quarter. After picking up a couple of first downs, they faced a fourth and 3 from Roger’s 43-yard line. Trailing 3-0, it was far from desperation time. But Telecky felt like his team needed a spark, and they tried to provide it. Instead when a short slant pass was dropped, Rogers suddenly saw the momentum swing their way. They took advantage by driving down the short field and finding the end zone on a 4-yard run from Nate Weber with six minutes left in the first half.
Monti had one more chance in the first half. Using a 15-yard screen pass to Laimer and a 16-yard run by Birk Olson, they moved the ball down near the red zone. With the clock winding down, the Magic again found themselves facing a fourth and 3. Again, incomplete, and the Magic entered half trailing 10-0.
In the second half, the Monticello defense and special teams kept the team in the game. On Rogers’ first possession, Monticello got a stop and then blocked the punt after the fumbled snap. The Magic took over at the Rogers 13-yard line. Just 39 feet away from pay dirt. Yet again, they got nothing. One run from a less-than-healthy Jake Olson (playing on a sprained ankle) went nowhere, and the Magic followed that up with three straight incompletions, turning the ball over on downs for the third time in as many quarters. Not only had they failed to get in the end zone, they also were unable to pick up any yards to make themselves more comfortable trying a field goal.
“We have a good offense,” emphasized Telecky after the game. “We’ve got to be able to score. We had our chance, you can’t ask for better position. That should have been it, that should have been momentum, we should have got it going. We just didn’t.”
But it wouldn’t be their last chance. The Magic kept battling and kept giving themselves chances against the defending conference champions.
“In the past, our special teams have hurt us against Rogers,” said Telecky. “Tonight they put us in a great position.”
Sam Johnson provided the next attempt at a spark when the two-way starter blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter. The Magic took the ball over near midfield.
As the game turned into the final stanza, momentum continued to elude the Magic. They punted the ball away. Finally, as the game neared desperation time, the Magic struck.
The defense forced another stop. Monti got the ball back. They moved the ball to the 37-yard line. Then, in one quick swoop, Birk Olson ignited the Magic, the crowd, and what felt like much of a community. He took a pitch right, made a couple of quick cuts and sprinted 37-yards down the Magic sideline to
break the egg on the Magic side of the scoreboard. When Jakob Kounkel added the extra point, Monticello was trailing just 10-7 with 6:34 left in the game.
With the crowd chanting “we believe,” the Magic defense gave up one first down, but stood strong after that, getting a stop on third and four with just over three and a half minutes left. That set up the final drive, the final sequence, and the final play. The Magic battled their tails off to respond, something they’ve done all year. And to many, including Telecky, the conclusion seemed forgone when the Magic earned that final opportunity.
“As we’re going down there, I’m like we’re gonna do this,” he said. “When it didn’t work, I think everybody was shocked a little bit.
All year, we’ve found ways to do it. In big moments, we’ve found ways to get it done.”
Friday, Monticello didn’t get it done. But they earned a shot, and they took it. Saturday morning, Telecky showed no signs of regret.
The coach took to Twitter to express a quote that the Magic have stayed true to since posting it in their locker room before this season.
“It’s better to live one day as a lion, than 100 years as a lamb,” said Telecky. “Last night we finished as lions, but came up short.”
This week’s game ball goes to senior Michael Witschen.
Witschen made an impact on the defensive side of the ball all night. The linebacker was constantly flying to the ball, and seemed to be in on a tackle or just a step away on nearly every play. He finished the game with ten tackles, second on the team behind Sam Johnson (who gets honorable mention for his 13 tackles and big special teams play).
On offense, Witschen was there when the Magic needed him most. He was thrown to twice during the final drive, and he made both receptions. He picked up 41 yards between the two catches, and was one of the big reasons that the Magic even had a shot on the final series.
The Magic travel to Willmar this Friday for a section showdown. Check out Extra Points online for more information