’Jacks blank Billies, keep trophy
As senior high athletes, none of Monticello’s football players had ever got the better of Warren before last Friday. They still haven’t.
The defending Class 4A state champion and 4A, District 8 front-running Lumberjacks stopped the Billies’ two-game win streak in its tracks in a 37-0 shutout of Monticello at Jim Hurley Jr. Sports Stadium to keep the 148-pound Saline River Shootout Trophy right where it has resided for the past few years.
Despite the road loss, though, the Billies maintained their position in the 8-4A state playoff race, as did Warren. Both schools entered Friday’s game among the top four district seeds, and both exited the same way.
“This was a very disappointing loss, but not at all discouraging,” Monticello head coach Marty Davis said after watching his club fall to 3-2 in the conference and 4-4 for the season. “We still have a lot to play for. Warren has a very good football team and we knew that going into the game— but, for sure, I do not believe we played our best game.
“Our kids played hard; even though we got down early we continued to fight all the way through. We did some good things in the game but not enough to challenge what they were able to do.”
Considering his team wasn’t able to find the end zone for the entire 48 minutes, Davis noted, Warren would have still kept the trophy—but had Lumberjack junior Treylon Burks not been dressed out, it would have been much closer.
The Billies couldn’t find a way to stop Burks either offensively or on special teams. Burks accounted for 235 all-purpose yards on the night himself, scoring twice on runs of one and 91 yards and taking a punt to the house from 75 yards away—all in the first half.
“We can not give up the big play in any phase: offensively, defensively or on special teams,” Davis said. “We did do some good things at times, but we are at that time of the year where we have to do it on a consistent basis.
“The long kickoff return to start the game did not help. It gave them good field position to open the game, and it put our defense on its heels early on. That’s not what we needed to open the game. Still we were able to recover and move the ball, but then penalties took what momentum we had and it became an uphill battle from that point.”
Warren scored all 37 of its points in the first half, which meant the Arkansas Activities Association’s sportsmanship rule (a running clock) was employed throughout the third and fourth periods. Still, Davis pointed out, after intermission, the score was 0-0.
Both teams ran 49 offensive plays but the Lumberjacks were able to outgain Monticello 249-164. The telling team statistic was that the Billies weren’t able to convert on a single third- (0-for-8) or fourth-down (0-for-2) chance.
While Burks was having his way with the Monticello defense, Warren was holding Billies’ senior quarterback Ryan Lambert to just 69 yards through the air on 10 of 18 competitions. The Lumberjacks also intercepted Lambert twice.
Sophomore Jorden Ollison was the leading Monticello ground gainer with 50 yards rushing on seven carries while junior Gabe Martens hauled in six of Lambert’s completions for 51 yards. Senior Austin Patton and junior Colton Oltmann each recorded six tackles to pace the Billies on the defensive side of the ball.
Elsewhere in 8-4A, Dumas dropped DeWitt 46-8; Hamburg triumphed in the Battle for Ashley County, downing Crossett 36-7; and Star City kept Dollarway winless with a 43-0 shutout.
Friday, the top four squads will be somewhat sorted out as Monticello visits Dumas and Warrens travels to Hamburg. The Lumberjacks are the odds-on favorites to repeat as conference champions but, with two league games remaining, anything can happen.
“At this point, it’s about finishing and putting ourselves in the best position for the postseason, Davis said. “This past week was not our best showing, but each week we have had a bad outing we have bounced back and played well. I have no doubt that we will bounce back this week and have a good game.
“Dumas has a very good football team. They had a big week last week and are right now tied for second in conference standings. They are very big and physical and do a great job of running and passing the ball. They have guys on defense that can run well and play hard-nosed defense. For us, we have the play hard and limit our mistakes and take care of the ball.
“We still have a lot to play for. I have no doubt our kids will come out and continue to play hard.”
The difference in finishing the 8-4A regular season 5-2, or even 4-3, for Monticello—as Davis and this year’s Billie senior well know—is placement in the first round of the playoffs.
According to the AAA’s website, only the top two finishers in 8-4A will be playing at home on Friday, Nov. 10. The other three qualifiers will have to make substantial road trips. But first things first—the regular season still has two weeks left.
Kickoff at Dumas is 7 p.m. Friday.