Pilots Score Big Win Against Monroe Central
HANNIBAL – When undefeateds like Monroe Central and River meet on the gridiron, fans have the highest hopes they’ll stage a dandy.
They got that and more Friday night at Martin Flannery Field.
A last-ditch lateral by the Seminoles on the final play deep in Pilots’ territory went for naught, and River held on for a 28-22 triumph in a battle of Monroe County powers.
”I had two grilled cheese and a Dr. Pepper from our wonderful cooks at lunchtime and a win (Friday night) to go 3-0,” River Head Coach Mike Flannery exalted outside the River locker room. ”You can’t much better than that.
”Finally, after maybe two years of not finishing games with young kids, we have finally finished a big game and, hopefully, this lays the pavers for good things to come down the road.”
Lukas Isaly had another sensational outing – rushing for 201 yards and all four of the Pilots’ scores. In the end, though, it was River’s defense that stood tall, halting the Seminoles as the clock wound down.
”The did the job big time,” Flannery said. ”You have to trust your defense and I trust our defense. I knew I could play conservative and milk the clock a little bit. I had confidence in them.”
Following a short punt, Monroe Central got the ball at the River 43 with 7:27 left trailing by six. The Seminoles moved to the 27 on the next play on a screen pass from Jarett Hooper to Bobby O’Donnell.
Four players later and faced with fourth-and 3 at the Pilots’ 20, Hooper dropped back and spotted a wide open Joey Schumacher all alone on the right side of the end zone. His pass was short, though, and River took over on downs with 4:52 remaining.
After scoring on runs of 33, 82, 3 and 19 yards, Isaly carried the ball six straight times. While his longest tote was only seven yards, he was able to keep the clock moving so that when River was faced with 4th-and-2 at its own 38 there was 1:32 left when Monroe Central called one of its two remaining time outs.
When deciding whether to go for it or not, Flannery said the choice was clear.
”We needed to punt,” he said. ”All of coaches agreed to it.”
On the punt, Isaly bobbled the snap, but got it off into the waiting hands of Schumacher, who returned it to the River 43 with 1:22 remaining. From there, it’d be up to the Pilots’ defense.
Hooper, who finished with a team-best 124 rushing yards, went for seven on first down. Following an incompletion, he scampered for five more and a first down at the 31.
Next, Hooper found Trey Duffy for a 7-yard completion as the clock showed 1:03.. He then hit Ryan LaFollette for five more yards to the 19.
From there, time became Monroe Central’s enemy. A pair of spikes, with a sack sandwiched in between, left the ‘Noles with one final chance at the 25. On the play, Hooper dropped back and sent a pass down the right side to LaFollette. LaFollette then lateraled to O’Donnell, who was tackled ending the game.
Monroe Central Head Coach Jay Circosta said that final drive was one of many his team wasn’t able to finish.
”Opportunities presented themselves and we didn’t put the ball in the end zone,” he said. ”We needed points to win the game. You can’t let those falter or go down the drain.”
The final drive represented the third time in the second half the Seminoles got inside River’s 30, but failed to score.
”There were times we moved the ball and looked pretty good, and there were times we didn’t,” Circosta said.
The Seminoles started out with a bang, taking the opening kickoff and driving on the end zone on three runs (11, 16 and 33) by Hooper to grab a quick 7-0 lead.
But Isaly scored the first of his four TDs later in the opening quarter and the battle was on from there.
Hooper also threw a touchdown pass, a 34-yard strike to O’Donnell that appeared to be intended for Schumacher. Hooper finished 18 of 29 for 220 yards. Seth Alleman had Monroe Central’s other score on a 2-yard run.
”We’ll have to regroup and get back to work because have Caldwell (3-0) next week,” Circosta said.
The Pilots, meanwhile, travels across the river to battle Magnolia. The Blue Eagles put their unbeaten record on the line this afternoon at home against Greenbrier West
”We’ll enjoy this one for about a day, maybe,” Flannery said. I know the kids will enjoy this for about a week. But, I’ll maybe enjoy it for 12 hours and then I’ll get on the film.”
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org