Billies squeak one out at Magnolia

Should Monticello be involved in too many more games like last Friday, the school might ought to consider changing its nickname to the Cardiac Kids (as in Billies). A week after suffering one of the worst defeats in recent memory, Monticello squeezed out a 28-27 win at Magnolia.
That evened the Billies’ record at 1-1 with always-tough Fordyce looming as the last non-conference test for Monticello. It’s also the Billies home opener after two weeks on the road. Kickoff at Hyatt Field is set for 7 p.m. Friday.
Save for a Kevious Simpson two-point conversion run that capped a 28-point second half, the Monticello-Fordyce game could have very well pitted two 0-2 teams against each other. As it stands, though, fourth-year head coach Marty Davis and his Billies are flying high.      
“It is always good to win and our kids played well enough to win this football game,” Davis said after the one-point win. “I thought this was the best game we have played thus far this year, even though we are not where we need to be.
“I thought our kids played extremely hard and never gave in to us being on the wrong side of the scoreboard most of the night. Our kids continued to play hard the entire ball game.”
Turnovers played a key in Monticello’s victory. The Billies won that battle 3-1, and a fumble recovery was the start of the Monticello comeback. Trailing just 7-0 at intermission, the Billies gave up two big plays in the third quarter.
First, a 75-yard run by Magnolia senior Tayvon Patterson gave the hosts Panthers a two-score advantage. Monticello was able to answer with an eight-yard touchdown run by the junior Simpson but special teams gave up their second long play in two weeks.
Magnolia junior Terry Lambert caught Tyon Rhodes’ kickoff after the Billie score at the Panther two-yard line and, 98 yards later, stood in the Monticello end zone celebrating a 20-7 lead.    
“Our big concern is that we gave up some big plays,” Davis noted, “and that will happen against teams with speed. We have got to get better with our kick coverage team. We know that when teams with speed get into space we have trouble getting them down. Those areas can be corrected—and will.”
Down 14 points late in the third quarter, Monticello grabbed an opportunity. Two scoring plays later, the game was tied.  
“The turning point of the game was the second half, when we caused a fumble and recovered it on about their 12-yard line,” Davis said. “We score (on a Simpson seven-yard run) and it’s 20-14. We kick onside, recover, go score (on a 25-yard pass from senior Ryan Lambert to sophomore Jorden Ollison) and the game is tied 20-20.
“And at the end, we found a way to win ball game. I’m proud of how our kids never gave in and continued to play hard.”
Still, Magnolia retook the lead on yet another big play—a 60-yard run from junior Kadyn Roach in the fourth quarter but left enough time on the clock for Lambert to connect with junior Mason Morgan from 22 yards out to knot the game t 27 all. Simpson’s two-point conersion run proved to be the difference.
“I thought we played extremely well as a team,” Davis noted. “Our defense played well enough for us to win. We limited their No. 1 player to one big play. And we were able to move the ball offensively and put points on the board.
“Our offensive line did a good job up front and our backs did a great job of running hard—and did not put the ball on the ground. Our special teams came through when we needed them to. Overall, the entire team fought all night and never stop believing they could win the game.
“I think we gained confidence from this game that if we continue to play we are never out of a game. Play hard through the end and never give in. I’m extremely proud of how our kids played this past Friday.”
For the most part, Simpson was he workhorse of the Monticello backfield, gaining 136 yards on 24 carries and scoring twice. Seven others, however, helped the Billies rushed for 309 yards as a team.
The big statistic was that Lambert threw for 83 yards and two touchdowns, while the Billies’ defense shut out Magnolia through the air. Junior Gabriel Martens again led Monticello’s receiving corps with three catches for 29 yards. Ollison’s and Morgan’s scoring receptions were the only ones of the night for those two Billies.
Senior Austin Patton led the Monticello defense with 10 tackles (four solo) and junior Bralyn Owens and seniors Zaydrian Goodwin and Austin Morgan had one fumble recovery each that proved to be huge in the Billies grabbing their first victory of 2017.
Now, it gets more serious with the start of Class 4A, District 8 play just one week away, Davis said. Luckily for Monticrello, its next three games will be at home.
“Fordyce is always tough and that will be no difference this year,” the head Billie said. “Even though they are 0-2, they are a very good football team. They have experience and speed at all skill positions. They are a very tough hard-nosed football team. They will work from the Wing-T and also spread offensively and will play a 4-4 on defense.
“We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

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