PHOTO: Jarrett Easton goes high to pull in a pass for Monticello in the Mount Vernon game Sept. 20. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
If this becomes the year the Monticello Panthers break their 22-year drought of post-season play, they will likely look back to a Sept. 20 win over Mount Vernon as a key reason.
Mount Vernon, fresh off a win over district favorite Dyersville Beckman the previous week, came to Monticello Friday expecting to up its district mark to 2-0.
Instead, an inspired group of Panthers forced six turnovers, including five in the second half, and held off late threats to defeat the Mustangs 22-18.
Few Monticello fans would deny that it was a huge win, especially after a tough loss at Cascade the previous week. Primarily, it puts the Panthers (1-1, 2-2) in the thick of the post-season chase.
“It’s a wide-open race now for those four playoff spots, and even for the district title,” Monticello head coach Jon Kyte said. “This puts us in a great position.
“This was our first game all season where the boys played all four quarters, and it was great to see. There were some tough situations out there throughout the game, and the guys just battled through it. They didn’t let a big play or a turnover or a momentum swing break them. They stuck together and played as a team.”
Of Mount Vernon’s turnovers, none was bigger than Peyton Paddock’s interception of a screen pass that he returned 55 yards for a touchdown with 6:43 left in the game.
“On second and long, third and long situations, they like to go to that screen pass,” Kyte said. “We called cover one, which is a man coverage, knowing that, if they try to run a screen, we had one of our guys, either Peyton Paddock or one of four inside linebackers, on their running back.”
Paddock stepped in front of the back and grabbed the pass, then raced down the right sideline for the score. He then booted the extra point.
Mount Vernon (1-1, 2-2) led 6-3 after a first half dominated by the defenses. Monticello’s score came on a 28-yard field goal by Paddock early in the second quarter.
“I think it was two great defensive teams on the field,” Kyte said. “Coach (Duane) Orr, their head coach, does a good job getting their defense to the play. They’re coached up well.”
The second half was back-and-forth. Monticello drove 64 yards in nine plays in what was really the only sustained drive of the game, and scored on a four-yard pass from Cody Jamison to Jarrett Easton. The extra point try was blocked, and Monticello led 9-6.
On the next series, a fumble on Mount Vernon’s first play from scrimmage was recovered by Garrett Rieniets of the Panthers at the Mustangs’ 3-yard line, and Monticello took advantage on the next play, as Tanner Felton scored on a three-yard run. The PAT was no good, but in the space of 13 seconds of game time, Monticello had taken a 15-6 lead.
Then it was Mount Vernon’s turn to take advantage of a turnover. A fumble on a punt return was recovered by Luke Maddock of the Mustangs, and Mount Vernon scored on the next play, a 31-yard run by Trey Ryan. A two-point pass was incomplete, and Monticello led 15-12 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
The Mustangs turned another Panther turnover into points on the first play of the fourth quarter. A fumble bounced up into the hands of Trey Ryan, who caught it on the run and ran 52 yards to put Mount Vernon ahead 18-15.
Mount Vernon tried for a two-point conversion, and a pass fell incomplete, keeping it a three-point game.
The teams traded turnovers after that, an interception by Mount Vernon’s Connor Herrmann and a fumble recovery by Monticello’s Jarrett Easton.
Then came Peyton Paddock’s interception return that proved to be the game-winner.
Mount Vernon did threaten again, after Noah Dahlstrom returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards into Monticello territory. But an interception by T.J. Decker stopped that drive, and Trent Aitchison had an interception on a fourth-down pass near midfield to seal the win.
“We spent most of the second half in (our own) territory,” Kyte said. “It was great to see the guys, toward the end say, ‘No matter where the field position is, we’re going to get that stop.’ ”
Mount Vernon finished with 213 total yards, and Monticello had 164. Tanner Felton led all rushers with 104 yards on 23 carries.
Next week is homecoming for Monticello against Camanche (0-2, 1-3).
“They have some athletic talent, some speed,” Kyte said. “They’re not off to the start they were hoping to have, but they’re going to come and compete with us.
“I told the guys, ‘We can’t get complacent. This game is as big as the Mount Vernon game. There’s a lot of stuff going on during homecoming week, but for us, what’s going to make or break the week is if we win the game or not.”
Mt. Vernon 6 0 6 6 – 18
Monticello 0 3 12 7 – 22
MtV - Ryan 4 run (kick blocked), 1:36 remaining.
Monti - Paddock 28 field goal, 9:38.
Monti – Easton 4 pass from Jamison (kick blocked), 8:39.
Monti - Felton 3 run (kick failed), 8:26.
MtV - Ryan 31 run (pass failed), 2:37.
MtV - Ryan 61 fumble return (pass failed), 11:39.
Monti - Paddock 55 interception return (Paddock kick), 6:43.
First downs 9 11
Rushing yards 151 118
Passing yards 62 46
Total yards 213 164
Comp.-att.-int. 7-22-4 4-17-2
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-40 4-30
Rushing – Felton 23-104, Jamison 14-14, Kraus 2-1, Johnson 2 (-1).
Passing – Jamison 4-17-46-1-2.
Receiving – Easton 3-29, Williams 1-17.
Fumble recoveries - Paddock, Easton.
Interceptions - Williams, Paddock, Decker, Aitchison.
Tackle leaders - Felton 10, Paddock 7, Pike 6, Aitchison 5, Holtz 2.5, Craig 2.
Tackles-for-loss - Felton 3, Pike 2.5, Paddock 2, Holtz 0.5.