Monticello needed to be firing on all defensive cylinders in last Tuesday night’s section playoff against ground powerhouse Elk River, and without the services of senior linebackers Logan Gustafson and Kodi Schroeder, the Magic faced a tough task.
The Elks drove the running game to a 69-42 victory behind a six-touchdown, 300-yard plus performance from senior running back Denis Bardashevskiy. Penalties also plagued the Magic, a factor later addressed by Head Coach Jason Telecky .
“These kids work hard, and they are passionate,” he said. They are top-notch kids off the field, but when they are on the field, sometimes they lose control. Most of that anger is directed toward themselves. I feel bad for them.” During his farewell remarks to players, he praised their work ethic, drive, passion and enthusiasm.
He added: “This wasn’t a good game for us to try and find a replacement for 140 tackles,” he said, referring to Gustafson and Schroeder. “Two minutes into the third quarter, we lost Sam Johnson, our third leading tackler, so at that point, we were down 210 tackles, and that’s difficult to overcome against a team like this.”
The Magic played a defensive end at linebacker, Telecky said. “Elk River is very good at what they do. They carry out fakes very well and the thing is, you have to be a very disciplined team and play your spot. What ends up happening is you’ll get a player out of position because they think they have to make a change. That’s why Elk River’s offense works. They are patient enough to stay with it. They didn’t throw.”
Elk River opened the game with a big play on the kickoff from the Magic, getting a 49-yard return to set up the Elks with good field position for their first scoring drive. Bardashevkskiy scored on a 23-yard run with 9:56 left in the first quarter, then the Elks made it 14-0 on Josh Hinkemeyer’s 7-yard run. Monticello scored on a nifty 28-yard scamper by Andrew Manning to cut the score to 14-7 but the Elks answered with Bardashevkskiy’s second score of the night, a 64-yard run with 1:39 left in the first quarter that gave Elk River a 21-7 lead.
In the second quarter, Elks quarterback Trent Pink ran for a 12-yard touchdown, with the extra point attempt failing for a 27-7 lead. Monticello countered with a 24-yard pass from quarterback Jake Berthiaume to Manning with 6:29 left in the second quarter to make the score 27-13 Elk River, with the Magic missing the extra point.
Elk River’s Pink ran for a 10-yard touchdown and threw a two-point conversion to make the score 35-13. Monticello answered with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Berthiaume to Manning and a missed extra point to make the score 35-19, and with a minute left before the half, Bardashevkskiy scored his third touchdown of the night on a 33-yard run. The extra point was unsuccessful and Elk River lead 41-19 going into halftime. Monticello came out strong to open the second half scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run by Jake Olson with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter, and with the extra point, the Magic made the game a 15-point contest at 41-26.
Bardashevkskiy tallied his fourth touchdown of the night on a 22-yard run, ending the quarter’s scoring. The Magic opened the fourth quarter with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Berthiaume to Manning, tacking on a two-point conversion run by Olson to make the score 48-34 Elk River with 9 minutes left in the game.
However, the Elks scored on a 3-yard run by Josh Hinkemeyer to pad their lead once again. Berthiaume scored Monticello’s last touchdown of the season with 5:50 left in game on a 13-yard run. Olson added another two-point conversion and Monticello trailed 55-42, but Elk River put the game out of reach when Bardashevkskiy scored on a 55-yard run and a 52-yard run.
The Magic turned to the onside kick as a change in strategy later in the game, Telecky said. “As soon as we were able to recover the first one, that’s what we decided we were going to do,” he said. “We weren’t planning on trying to kick it deep. We tried to pooch it or drop it in there.” Telecky said making those type opportunities count against a team like Elk River is critical. “We also had a couple of untimely turnovers; we recovered the onside kick and fumbled the next play.”
On offense, Monticello was lead by Jake Olson, 24 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown, and in the air, Berthiaume was 14 of 24 for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions, two of them in the first half. Manning had seven receptions for 115 yards and three touchdowns and added a touchdown on the ground. Monticello had 462 total yards during the game.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Telecky said of Berthiaume and his final performance at quarterback. “One of the interceptions was batted, and the other resulted from a little bit of pressure. He’s a great leader. He just needed a good completion to get going. We weren’t going to change our plays. We were going to go with him, and he was going to make it happen one way or another.” Telecky added Manning was a key offensive asset for the Magic this year because of his tremendous ball skills. “I was just hoping that he would get a few more weeks to showcase that.”
Magic win regular season finale
In its final game of the regular season, Monticello did what they’ve been trying to do all year. It took care of business and controlled play for nearly all 48 minutes of their senior night battle with Duluth Denfeld, walking away with their most comfortable win of the year, 49-18.
“We fired on all cylinders and we took care of business,” said Coach Telecky. “It felt good to do that.”
After allowing a few first downs on the first defensive drive, Monticello quickly snatched control of momentum.
With 4:20 remaining in the first half, Jake Berthiaume found Andrew Manning for a six-yard scoring strike, Manning’s sixth touchdown in the last three games.
Senior Travis Moe helped get the Magic offense right back on the field. When the Hunters’ quarterback took off on a run left, Moe came out to make the stop. His picture perfect tackle popped the ball loose, and when Tyler Mros fell on it, Monticello was in control.
“That really set the tone,” said Telecky. “Great moment for him, great to do something like that on senior night.”
While the defense continued to generate turnovers, five for the game, the offense worked as efficiently as they have all year.
Senior Jake Olson, who rushed for 106 yards, got in on the action early in the second quarter, rushing for a four-yard touchdown two minutes in and adding a 21-yard touchdown run six minutes later.
The Magic tacked on their fourth straight score a couple minutes later when Berthiaume found Sam Johnson for a 28-yard scoring strike. It was the second of three touchdown tosses for Berthiaume, who finished the game with nine completions on 11 attempts, while throwing for 163 yards. The quarterback also ran for a score.
Denfeld answered with their first score of the game in the final minute of the half, but they would get no closer.
The Magic scored the only two touchdowns of the third quarter, pushing the lead to 42-6 and allowing them to get a lot of players game action.
“It was very important for us to get every senior on the field,” said Telecky.
Aaron Hanson provided the final highlight on senior night, as the sophomore scored on a 15-yard scamper with seven minutes left in the game.