Five extra points from last week’s homecoming loss to Rogers, as well as a quick preview of tonight’s game at section-opponent Willmar.
• Athletic Director Gary Revenig estimated just over 4,000 people attended Friday’s football game.
“It was clearly the largest crowd since I started in 1993,” said Revenig in an email to the Times. “It may be the largest ever at Monticello High School.”
• A couple of interesting comparisons in game decisions. When Rogers played Buffalo earlier this year, Buffalo went for it on a fourth down near midfield and failed to pick up the first down. Rogers kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession and ended up winning the game by two points. While chatting with a Buffalo coach after that game, Magic Coach Jason Telecky was asked what he would have done.
“I’d go for it,” Telecky told them. Friday night he got his opportunity when the Magic faced a fourth and three near midfield, and he did just that. Again, Rogers got the stop and made their opponent pay, this time by marching the other direction and scoring a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Big Lake faced an end of game situation very similar to Monticello’s Friday night. Playing at Duluth East, a back and forth affair came down to the final possession. Big Lake, trailing 36-35, faced a fourth and goal at the ten-yard line with just seconds left. Rather than attempt a game-winning field goal, the Hornets sent their offense back out. They connected on a touchdown pass, giving them their first win of the year.
• Monticello’s defense continues to be stout. After holding Roger’s high powered offense to just 10 points, the Magic are giving up 10.6 points per game. That’s well under the 16 points a game that Telecky set for a team goal before the season. The best points against average the Magic have posted in the last decade is 16.1 in the 2002 season.
Cambridge leads the Mississippi 8, allowing just 9 points per game in conference play after their second conference shut out (beating Duluth Denfeld 53-0).
• Despite losing to a section rival Friday night, the Magic actually jumped up in the section rankings from #2 to the top spot. STMA was ahead of Monticello to start the night, but their loss to a winless Buffalo team dropped them down to third in the section rankings while Monticello stayed just ahead of Rogers despite losing to them Friday. According to QRF, which is used to determine section seeds, the Magic are still the ninth-ranked team in Class AAAAA.
• If the Magic have had a weak spot this year, it’s been special teams. Friday night was a completely different story. The units, which refer to themselves as “Elite Teams” helped keep the Magic in the game and offered plenty of opportunities for Monticello to turn the game around.
Sam Johnson was the ringleader as he was one of two guys in on the early third quarter punt block (along with Lowell Laudert), and was responsible for blocking Roger’s field goal late in the third quarter. That block not only took points off the board for Rogers, but also set the Magic up with the ball at midfield.
However, there was one other special teams play that flew under the radar. Things didn’t look great when the Magic trailed by ten early in the fourth quarter, but they almost got a lot worse. The Magic set up to punt the ball back to Rogers, and a Royal’s rusher came virtually untouched right at punter Luke Palmer. A blocked punt likely would have been the start of the end for Monti. Instead, Palmer gave a small fake and a side step to avoid the defender. Then, rather than panicking, Palmer executed a nice punt, pinning Rogers in their own territory and helping to eventually set up Monticello’s lone scoring drive. It ended up proving inconsequential Friday, but those are the types of plays that could provide the difference between winning and losing big games down the stretch.
Monticello takes the 90-minute journey to Willmar tonight to deal with cold temperatures, strong winds and an impressive offense.
Willmar, who is in Monticello’s section, is currently 2-3. After jumping out to a 20-0 first quarter lead, they beat Buffalo 40-19 in week one. After that win, Willmar lost three straight games, by a total of nine points. Two of those losses were by one point, including a 22-21 defeat to the defending state champions, Rocori. Last Friday Willmar bounced back with a 27-14 victory over Alexandria.
Willmar’s quarterback Alex Grove is without question their most explosive player. Against Alexandria, Grove was 16 for 23 for 281 yards through the air. On the ground he added 56 yards on just 10 carries. Currently, Grove is averaging 175 passing yards per game to go with 54.5 rushing yards. His favorite target on offense is Austin Rambow. The receiver has 26 catches for 325 yards this season.
Monticello will look to find some holes in a Willmar defense that has been consistently good this year, giving up an average of 19.4 points per game. With Jake Olson out tonight due to an ankle injury, the Magic will likely give Birk Olson a larger load on offense than he has seen thus far this year.
Kickoff is at 7 tonight in Willmar. The forecast for kickoff is 44 degrees with winds at 18 mph.