Cowbell returns to Monti; Panthers one win from district title

Caleb Sauser lets out a yell as he clutches the Cowbell Trophy following Monticello’s 14-8 win over Anamosa Oct. 8 at Dean Nelson Field. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Panther quarterback Preston Ries tries for a big gain in the Anamosa game Oct. 18.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     The spirited Cowbell Trophy rivalry football game between Monticello and Anamosa had to take a year off in 2020 due to issues with COVID-19.

     It returned Friday at Dean Nelson Field, in all of its throw-out-the-records tradition and glory. It took a fourth quarter touchdown pass for Monticello to come from behind and pull out a 14-8 victory over the pesky Blue Raiders Oct. 8.

     “The Cowbell game has been a crazy game every year since I have been here,” Monticello coach Wes Wilson said. “It’s always great to get the Cowbell, but more importantly it keeps our goal of winning a district title intact.”

     True: the Panthers would win the outright Class 2A, District 5 championship with a victory at Northeast of Goose Lake Friday, Oct. 15.

     Also, a Monticello school record was surpassed. Caleb Sauser had 121 receiving yards in the game, giving him a record 933 for the season, passing the mark of 907 set by Tom Breashears in 1997.

     And, the Panthers got their mitts on the coveted Cowbell for the first time since 2018. Monticello extended its all-time lead in the series to 57-37-5.

     It wasn’t easy. Despite coming in with a record of 4-2, and with Anamosa sporting a 1-5 mark, the Blue Raiders carried an 8-6 lead into the fourth quarter of this muddy, hard-hitting game before the Panthers came back. Both teams struggled offensively with a soggy field after morning and afternoon showers hit the area.

     “The field conditions were not ideal, but it was the same for both teams,” Wilson said. “It took away some things we wanted to do, but I’m proud of the guys for making the adjustments in the second half.”

     Monticello did score first, on its second possession of the game, as Preston Ries lofted a pass to the front right corner of the end zone, and Caleb Sauser leaped to make an athletic grab. An extra point try failed, and the Panthers led 6-0.

     That proved to be the only score of the first half. Anamosa got as far as the Monticello 37-yard line, where a fumble was recovered for the Panthers by Gage Guilford. Monticello drove to the Anamosa 17 late in the first half, but missed a field goal attempt. The Panthers led 6-0 at the break.

     Anamosa’s best drive came on its first possession of the second half, marching from its 20 to the Panther 10. Then, quarterback Grahm Humpal hit Sam Wilt with a high pass for a 10-yard touchdown in the left side of the end zone, and then hit Wilt again on an almost identical play for the two-point conversion, giving the suddenly resurgent Raiders an 8-6 lead with 5:04 left in the third quarter.

     Monticello then drove to the Anamosa 5 before an interception ended that possession. The Panther defense then stopped the Blue Raiders on downs at its own 27.

     The Panthers took advantage of the short field, scoring on the fourth play, a 17-yard pass over the middle from Ries to Tate Petersen near the back of the end zone. Ries then completed a two-point pass to Caleb Sauser for a two-point conversion, and Monticello was back on top, 14-8, with 9:10 to go.

     After a Raider punt, an interception gave Anamosa the ball at its 23 with 5:57 left, but three minutes later, Caleb Sauser picked off a Raider pass at the Panther 15 with 2:50 to go.

     Monticello was then able to run out the clock. A long touchdown pass was called back on a holding penalty, but because of high school football’s spot-of-the-foul rule, the infraction was flagged near midfield, the Panthers ended up with a first down at its 42.

     An offside penalty against Anamosa gave the Panthers a first down at the Anamosa 45. On fourth down, with 3.5 seconds to go, Ries faded back and threw a long incomplete pass to run out the remaining time.

     The Panther defense held Anamosa to 207 total yards in the game, including 70 rushing. Ries was the tackle leader with 8.5, including a solo sack.

     “Coach (Jon) Kyte had a great game plan coming in. We knew we just had to execute offensively,” coach Wilson said of the Panthers’ defensive coordinator.

     On offense, Monticello gained 371. Ries finished with 264 yards in passing, including 121 to Caleb Sauser and 115 to Petersen. Ries rushed for 84 yards.

District title on the line

     Monticello last had a share of a football district title in 2006, when the Panthers shared it with Solon and Dyersville Beckman. That was the year only two teams per district made the post-season, and the state’s tie-breaker rules left the 8-1 Panthers out in the cold.

     Friday, the Panthers (3-1, 5-2) have the chance to win the title outright, which would not only be a first for the program, but would give them one home game to start the postseason, and a second one if they win the first.

     Monticello did win conference championships in the WaMaC in 1972, 1976, 1991, and a Big Bend Conference title in 1991, before the state switched to the district format beginning in 1992.

     Friday’s opponent, Northeast of Goose Lake, is tied with the Panthers, as well as Camanche, at 3-1 in the district, and Northeast is 4-3 overall. Camanche defeated Northeast 28-14 Friday.

     “Northeast is a very solid team,” Wilson said. “They have a freshman quarterback that makes a lot of plays with his feet, and they have some tall, athletic receivers. They aren’t flashy, but they are good at what they do.”

     If  Northeast wins, the Rebels would be district champions at 4-1 in the district. Monticello would finish 3-2, and would be second regardless of whether Camanche defeats Tipton Friday, since the Panthers defeated Camanche.


Oct. 8

Ana          0   0    8   0  –     8   

Monti      6   0    0   8  –  14



     Monti – Ca. Sauser 31 pass from Ries (kick failed), 2:53.


     No scoring.


     Ana – Wilt 10 pass from Humpal (Wilt pass from Humpal), 5:04.


     Monti – Petersen 17 pass from Ries (Ca. Sauser pass from Ries), 9:10.


                                  Ana        Monti

First downs             11            18

Rushing yds.           70          107

Passing yds.           137         264

Comp.-att.-int.  11-15-1  17-30-2

Total yards             207         371

Fumbles lost            1             0

Penalties-yds.       9-75      11-80


     Rushing – Ries 22-84, Cooper 7-27.

     Passing – Ries 17-30-264-2-2.

     Receiving – Ca. Sauser 6-121, Petersen 9-115, Cooper 2-28.

     Tackles – Ries 8.5, Cooper 5.5, Phelps 5.5, Sternhagen 5, Guilford 5, Petersen 3.5, Tallman 3, Ca. Sauser 2.5, Bartachek 2.5, Thomas 2.5, Etzel 2, Schilling 1.5, Co. Sauser 1.5, Husmann 0.5, A. Graves 0.5.

     Interception – Ca. Sauser.

     Fumble recovery – Guilford.

     Sacks – Ries.

     Tackles-for-loss – Ries 1.5, Phelps 1.5, Sternhagen 0.5, Guilford 0.5, Cooper 0.5, Bartachek 0.5.



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