Saturday afternoon, Monticello’s football field will show a sequel.
Just ten days after beating St. Michael-Albertville, 24-10, to earn a share of the Mississippi 8 conference championship, the second-seeded Magic will host the third-seeded Knights for the right to play in the section final.
The setting is the same, as are the main characters. Otherwise… well, there is a bit more on the line.
“It’s the same opponent, it’s the same field,” said Magic Coach Jason Telecky. “But that’s about all that’s the same. Everything rides on this game. There’s no tomorrow.”
While the Magic are rested, and had a chance to scout STMA’s 34-23 win over Buffalo on Tuesday, they are also dealing with the pressure of being favorites in a section game for the first time in a long time.
“It’s an unusual feeling,” admitted Telecky. “We have to learn how to be motivated when we’re expected to win.”
That will be one of many keys to the game. When the Magic beat the Knights last week, the home team’s focus was sharp and intensity was high. The Magic will need to match that if they want a repeat effort against a Knight’s team that will certainly be fired up and looking for revenge.
The Knights will have a couple of benefits Saturday, including one that they were without in the first matchup.
Chris Kartes, their leading rusher, was knocked out of the Wednesday night game after incurring a shoulder injury in the first quarter. He was back Tuesday against Buffalo, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown.
“Certainly he’s a little bit more explosive than the other guys,” said Telecky. “But it doesn’t change the way we game plan.”
The Magic game plan worked well the first time around. STMA’s offense was held in check for the first three quarters until a fourth quarter drive resulted in their first touchdown. Monticello has spent this week trying to figure out what STMA was able to do well, and the Magic will look to take those things away first and foremost Saturday.
However, Telecky understands that the Knights won’t run a vanilla game plan in this one, especially not as the underdog.
“I’m sure they’ll have a couple of different wrinkles,” he said. “They’re definitely not afraid to take chances.”
In their opening section win, the Knights went for it (and converted) on a fourth down in their own territory in the second half. That type of mentality, along with one of the best lines in the conference, an outstanding kick returner, a Div-I linebacker (Bennie Wilson) and an experienced quarterback, makes STMA a very dangerous team. Especially to beat twice.
But the Magic, winners of their last three, have plenty of their own reasons to be confident.
With seven two-way starters, earning the bye week was a big chance to rest up a lot of tired legs. It was especially big for Junior Jake Olson. Olson sprained his ankle in Week 5 against Rogers and has been hobbled ever since. He said after the last game against STMA that while it was the best he’s felt yet, he could definitely still feel pain in the ankle. Ten days without a game could make him even more dangerous this time around, which is a scary thought for the Knights since he carried the ball 17 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the first matchup.
When all is said and done, the Magic don’t care much how similar the script is to the first matchup. They just want the ending to be the same.
“I’m not ready for this [season] to be done,” summed up Telecky.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Monticello Middle School.
Around the section:
* Fifth-seeded Elk River traveled to Willmar and hammered the Cardinals, 51-28, in the other section quarterfinal Tuesday night. The Elks led 44-7 after three quarters. Elk River, who entered sections as a bit of an unknown (they didn’t play any other section opponents during the year) will now face top-seeded Rogers at the Royals’ field, also at 1 p.m. Saturday.