Big-play Panthers pull out win at Maquoketa in thriller

Brady Cleeton of Monticello (63) brings down a Maquoketa runner during the Panthers’ big road win Sept. 19. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     In a game of big plays, the Monticello High School football team saved one of the biggest ones for the fourth quarter.

     Quarterback Luke Lambert hit Tyler Luensman with a 30-yard pass, as Luensman sprinted across the middle of the field, snared the ball, and took it in for the eventual deciding touchdown, with 11:46 left to play, as the Panthers defeated Maquoketa 28-21.

     “Any win in this district is a big win,” Monticello coach Wes Wilson said. “Maquoketa has a lot of experience, especially playing in 3A (the Cardinals dropped to 2A this season). It’s a tough place to play, and we are very happy to come out of there with a victory.”

     The game, originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, was moved to Saturday because of quarantine issues for Monticello. The two teams took advantage of the extra day off to put on an entertaining, back-and-forth game on a beautiful evening. In the end, the Panthers came out on top to improve their record to 3-0.

     Maquoketa quarterback Kannon Coakley was a handful for the Panthers, rushing for 225 yards.

     “The defense did a nice job,” Wilson said. “Coakley is a big quarterback and hard to bring down. We knew it would be difficult to stop him, but we wanted to minimize him. I think we did a nice job of that in critical situations.”

     Monticello countered with Lambert, who passed for 202 yards and three touchdowns; Justin Recker, who outleaped a defender twice for two of those scores; and Caleb Sauser, who answered a Maquoketa score with a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

     Then there was Tyler Luensman, who not only led the team in receiving with six catches for 113 yards, including the game-winner; but also was second on the team with 7.5 tackles, behind freshman Preston Ries (10).

     The scoring started slowly in this one, as the host Cardinals tallied first on a nine-yard run by Connor Becker late in the first quarter. The extra point attempt bounced off the left upright, and Maquoketa’s lead remained 6-0.

     Lambert hit Recker for two scores in the second quarter, high throws to the left side of the end zone that Recker leaped to grab. The first one was on a 35-yard play, the second one covered eight yards. The Panthers took a 14-6 lead into halftime.

     The teams traded scores in the third quarter. Coakley scored on a six-yard run, and then ran in a two-point conversion, to tie the game 14-14.

     Sauser took the ensuing kickoff on the left side, zipped to the middle of the field, then cut back to the left again to find the sideline open. He raced to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown. Christian Castillo, who was 4-for-4 on extra point tries, drilled his kick through to put the Panthers ahead 21-14 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.

     The Cardinals then put together a 60-yard drive for a score, a six-yard run by Payton Schueller, and the game was tied again, 21-21, with 1:56 left in the third.

     The quarter ended that way, but on the second play of the fourth quarter, on a third-and-20 play, Lambert fired down the middle to the sprinting Tyler Luensman, who ran it in to put the Panthers ahead once more, 28-21.

     “Our guys have a lot of confidence, and they don’t get rattled,” Wilson said. “It was nice to see multiple guys step up and make big plays for us.”

     One of the most impressive drives of the game followed a Maquoketa punt. Monticello took the ball on its 24-yard line with 10:05 to play, and held possession for the rest of the game, gradually taking it to the Maquoketa 13-yard line before time ran out.

     A two-yard run by Bo Kramer on a fake punt near midfield, with just over five minutes to play, kept the drive alive. Lambert then had a pair of two-yard runs for first downs, and Tyler Luensman sealed it with a seven-yard run for a first down on a third-and-six.

     Maquoketa outgained Monticello 379 to 344, and no doubt lamented a couple of missed opportunities. The Cardinals were stopped on downs at the Panther 12 in the second quarter. And on the final possession of the first half, Maquoketa made it to the Panther 4, only to have a pass fall incomplete as the second quarter clock ran out.

Homecoming game Friday

     It’s homecoming week for the Panthers, who are scheduled to play Tipton Friday, Sept. 25 at Dean Nelson Field.


Sept. 19

Monti    0  14    7   7 – 28

Maq.     6    0  15   0 – 21



     Maq – Becker 9 run (kick failed), 1:55 remaining.


     Monti – Recker 35 pass from Lambert (Castillo kick), 10:54.

     Monti – Recker 8 pass from Lambert (Castillo kick), 6:28.


     Maq – Coakley 6 run (Coakley run), 4:41.

     Monti – Sauser 78 kickoff return (Castillo kick), 4:24).

     Maq – Schueller 6 run (Swanson kick), 1:56.


     Monti – T. Luensman 54 pass from Lambert (Castillo kick), 11:46.


                           Monti              Bel

First downs           14                 18

Rushing yds.       142               284

Passing yds.        202                95

Comp.-att.-int.  11-16-0          8-13-1

Total yds.              344              379

Fumbles lost          0                    0

Penalties              5-65             4-38


     Rushing – Lambert 22-92, Ries 6-32, T. Luensman 2-16, Kramer 1-2.

     Passing – Lambert 11-16-202-3-0.

     Receiving – T. Luensman 6-113, Recker 3-62, Sauser 1-15, Petersen 1-12.

     Interception – Sauser.

     Tackles-for-loss – Manternach 1, Kramer 0.5, Tallman 0.5, Cleeton 0.5, James 0.5, Thomas 0.5.

     Tackles – Ries 10, T. Luensman 7.5, Tallman 6, K. Luensman 5, Kramer 4.5, Sauser 4, James 4, Cleeton 3.5, Manternach 3, Cooper 2.5, Thomas 2.5, Recker 2, Jesenovec 1.5, Lambert 1, Bartachek 1,



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