The field. The teams. An emotional team and an emotional coach. Those things didn’t change from Monticello’s regular season finale with St. Michael-Albertville to their section semifinal game Saturday afternoon.
Everything else did.
The Knights came to Monticello and controlled the game from start to finish, taking a 10-0 win and a section final berth from a shell-shocked Magic team.
“That’s the worst part,” said Coach Jason Telecky, who was once again emotional, just for completely different reasons. “I don’t think we ever expected this.”
“It just seemed like everything was coming together. And then, boom.”
Suddenly, it all fell apart.
It’s difficult to point to an exact moment in Saturday’s game where the Magic were done in by the Knights. Instead, it seemed to be a two-hour exercise on how to suck the life out of both a team and a season.
Monticello took the opening kickoff, and proceeded to go three and out. But just as quickly as the door shut on the first drive, a window of opportunity opened back up. The Knights roughed the punter, giving Monticello a new set of downs and improved field position. Still, nothing happening. Another three and out and Monticello punted back.
The defense held immediately, forcing a punt back. Monticello took over and showed signs of life. They picked up a first down, moving the ball near midfield. Unfortunately, that would be about the maximum excitement the Magic offense proved capable of generating Saturday.
They soon picked up a holding penalty. Facing twenty-plus yards to go for another first down, Monticello dropped back to pass. Quarterback Matt Bonk got hit from behind, the ball came loose and STMA recovered.
They quickly took advantage. The Knights started the drive at the Magic thirty-eight, and wouldn’t finish it till they ate up all thirty-eight of those yards. The final three came on a third down pass from quarterback Cole Krutizg to Dallas Freeman. The extra point kick gave the Knights a 7-0 lead.
All year, the Magic responded swiftly to early deficits. Saturday they did not. On ensuing possessions, the offense continued to struggle to generate anything consistent.
“Just couldn’t string together two first downs,” said Telecky. “I think the kids were probably a little shocked when they weren’t going like they thought they were going to go.”
Just ten days prior, Monticello had moved the ball with ease against the Knights. Saturday, a blitzing, aggressive Knights’ defense had Monticello on their heels early and often.
In the second quarter, the defense gave the Magic opportunities. Paul Fair intercepted a pass that stopped the Knights’ momentum. Then Sam Johnson intercepted a pass. The Magic followed Johnson’s interception with a roller coaster posession. It started with a 20-yard carry from Will Bauman that brought the Magic near the Knights’ 20-yard line. After stalling out there, Monticello brought on the field goal unit. But a pre-snap penalty pushed them back out of field goal range. Out came the offense.
The Magic entered the game with a couple of tricks up their sleeve. Facing fourth and long, there wasn’t going to be a better time than now. So, they went to one. Monticello ran a rollout left, dragging everyone to that side of the field. Suddenly, Birk Olson slipped from behind the line to the right flat with no one around.
Bonk pivoted, saw Olson and released. The pass, catchable, but off-target, forced Birk to reach out to reel it in. As he reached out, he stumbled, falling to the ground as he made the catch. It wasn’t just a turnover on downs. It was another missed opportunity. And a scarring way to end the half.
“You would have thought we were down forty at halftime,” said Telecky afterward. In their first meeting, the Magic had responded with ease to an early deficit. In this one, those seven points had become larger than life. They relaxed STMA, while changing the Magic mentality.
“We were all pressing,” said Telecky. “Trying to do a little too much.”
That became even more evident in the second half. With the Knights playing with a backup quarterback after Krutzig was knocked out of the game, Monticello found themselves out of place on consecutive third and longs, letting STMA continue the opening drive well into Magic territory. While the Knights would eventually miss a field goal, it set up the field position battle for the second half. Like the battle on the scoreboard, the Magic would lose.
Continual three and outs (Monticello had just six first downs for the game) kept Monticello pinned on the backside of the field. The Knights started four-second half drives in Magic territory. With the exception of a field goal early in the fourth quarter, the Magic defense held. But, without a big play, the offense continued to take over inside their own twenty. And with the Knights’ defense living in the Magic backfield, Monticello continued to punt from the same place they would take over.
“We allowed them to put us on the back side of field position,” said Telecky. “Everyone plays a little tighter inside their own twenty.”
And so it was for the Magic. Their running game was halted. Their passing game was grounded. In short, Monticello could do no right in the second half.
With each punt, Monticello neared a bit closer to their fate. Finally, consecutive possessions of an interception, a punt and a turnover on downs sealed the Magic’s loss late in the fourth quarter. Even if it felt that fate had been determined well prior.
In the final minute, the Knights took a knee, running the clock out on the best Magic season in nearly a quarter century.
Seven wins. A conference championship. A defense that allowed more than one touchdown once all season. A home section semifinal game.
But also, a season that ended at home. A season that ended prematurely. And a season that ended with the team’s ugliest performance of the year.
Monticello generated just 103 yards of offense. Eighteen of those yards came through the air, despite a rather high fifteen pass attempts. Standout back Jake Olson ran for three yards on nine carries, after tweaking his ankle injury from early in the season. Bonk was sacked a handful of times. Special teams roughed the punter on a key series in the second half. And the defense allowed the Knights to control field position in the second half.
Telecky was clearly still in a little shock after the game. He didn’t think it would happen like it did. He didn’t think it would end. Not Saturday. Not at home. Not for these kids.
“This is the first group of kids that I got to watch as freshmen,” said Telecky. “I understand how hard they’ve worked and the time they’ve put in. These kids, and their parents, gave so much to me. I feel absolutely guilty when it ends for them. I want them to have so much.”
And they did. But to go with all the great things they had, the 2012 Monticello football now has that one thing that is so familiar throughout program history.