Monticello takes key 8-4A road game
It was an “up” week for Monticello. The 3-3 Billies have lost, won, lost, won, lost—and now won again. Head coach Marty Davis said he is hopeful that roller coaster stays steady for a while.
Monticello proved it belongs in the upper echelon of Class 4A, District 8 with a 30-8 win at Dollarway last Friday night. In the past, a trip to Pine Bluff to face the Cardinals was pretty much akin to a black hole. That tradition-rich program was always talented—and big—and had at least one NCAA Division I-type player on the roster.
Times have changed, though, even with legendary former coach Lee Hardman once again walking the Dollarway sideline, and the Billies’ victory kept the Cardinals winless in their last year (at least for a while) in 4A. In the next Arkansas Activities Association reclassification cycle, Dollarway will drop down to 3A.
The Billies will aim for their first two-game win streak of 2017 when they host Crossett at 7 p.m. Friday at Hyatt Field. The game is Homecoming 2017. Homecoming Queen Haley Hill will be crowned on the artificial turf in pregame ceremonies beginning at 6:15 p.m. There will also be a Homecoming coronation assembly at 1:30 p.m. in Dan Coston Field House.
With Monticello sitting tied for second in the conference at 2-1, Friday’s game is doubly important, Davis said. A win would go a long way toward returning to the 4A state playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season, something the Billies were able to do last season after a two-year hiatus.
“Crossett is always a tough game for us,” Davis said of the 1-5 Eagles. “They are a team that will be well prepared and will play very physical. They have a very fine coaching staff that will have them ready to play. Their record is not a good indicator as to the type of team they have.
“They are battling for the same trophy we are. It will be a huge challenge for us this week. We have to understand that to get what we want, we will have to work hard this week and pay the price to be successful.
“(The win over the Cardinals) gives us momentum going into our next conference game. We were able to clean up some issues from the last game which gave us a chance to have success against Dollarway.”
Elsewhere around 8-4A, Crossett won its first game of the year with a 15-12 decision against DeWitt, defending 4A state champion Warren kept rolling with a 55-24 demolition of Dumas and Star City threw a kink into the league by upsetting Hamburg 28-27.
Success against Crossett on Friday night will undoubtedly give Monticello a boost heading into this year’s Saline River Shootout at Warren on Oct. 20. It’s hard to fathom, Davis said, but the regular season is more than half over now. Only a trip to Dumas (on Oct. 27) and a Thursday home game against DeWitt (on Nov. 2) will remain after this year’s Monticello-Warren rivalry game.
Despite losing three fumbles at Dollarway, the Billies shot out to a 30-0 advantage before the Cardinals avoided the shutout with a touchdown and two-point conversion run in the fourth quarter—long after the outcome of the game had been decided.
“It was a very good night for the Billies,” Davis noted. “It is always good to win—and it is one that we needed. I thought we got off to a good start on each side of the ball, which allowed us to play well all night.
“I thought our entire team played well and hard all night. We tackled well on defense and were able to move the ball on offense.
“There are many points in the game that can be good or bad. The game was, for the most part, good for us all night. The one thing that was not good was the fact that we put the ball on the ground and that’s something we have not done all year. When you turn the ball over, that is never good.”
Three upperclassmen combined to give Monticello an early 8-0 lead. Senior Jiehron Yarbrough was on the receiving end of a 58-yard touchdown pass from classmate Ryan Lambert that opened the scoring. Another senior, Cain Preston, bulled over for the extra point and Monticello was off and running.
A fourth senior, Aaron Spencer, singlehandedly doubled the Billies’ advantage when he scored from four yards out and ran for the two-point conversion himself. Monticello took that 16-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
In the third quarter, the Billies almost doubled their lead again when Preston scored from one yard away and junior Kevious Simpson found the end zone after a 22-yard scamper. Simpson also scored the two-point conversion after Preston’s touchdown to finalize Monticello’s point production.
Ten ball carriers helped the Billies dominate the ground game, 279-78. Spencer topped Monticello’s rushing charts with 76 yards on just seven carries while Simpson added 65 yards on an equal number of rushes.
With the effectiveness of the running game, the Billies found little need to put the ball in the air but Yarbrough led Monticello’s receiving corps with 85 yards on two receptions. Two more upperclassmen, Austin Patton and Zaydrian Goodwin, paced the Monticello defense with eight and six tackles, respectively.
Aside from Crossett’s trip to Hyatt Field on Friday, DeWitt will be at Warren, Dollarway at Hamburg and Dumas at Star City in league action.