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Monarchs struggle in loss to Clay Center

Published on -9/9/2012, 7:20 PM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Thomas More Prep-Marian football team opened Friday's contest with a three-and-out on offense. Then, Clay Center scored a touchdown after a three-play, 38-yard drive.

Following another Monarch three-and-out, Clay Center tacked on another score with a two-play, 23-yard drive. By the 7:12 mark of the first quarter, Clay Center led 12-0.

Clay Center, hurt by five turnovers and a missed field goal, had trouble scoring the rest of the game. However, the Monarchs continued to struggle mightily on offense. TMP collected just one first down all contest and eventually lost 28-7 at Lewis Field Stadium. The Monarchs dropped to 1-1 and suffered the first loss under new coach John Montgomery.

"They did an excellent job coming out and kind of getting us on our heels at the beginning, and we never did quite come back," Montgomery said.

Clay Center, backed the senior quarterbacks Caleb Carson and Ryan Blake, two big, athletic and speedy playmakers, rolled up 518 yards of total offense, including 413 on the ground. The Tigers ran 77 plays to the Monarchs' 41. TMP had to punt 10 times and had 141 yards of offense.

The Monarchs' lone first down came on a 65-yard TD pass from senior Shane Zimmerman to senior Anthony Walters with 3:51 left in the first half.

"Just didn't come out ready, that's about it," Zimmerman said. "They went up real quick and we just couldn't counter with any scores and just went downhill from there."

Last year, Carson was Clay Center's full-time quarterback and Blake missed most of the season with injury. This year, Blake has improved, which has allowed Clay Center to use Carson in a variety of roles. Both signal callers ran Clay Center's misdirection, zone-read offense effectively.

"Great kids and great teammates," Clay Center coach Todd Rice said. "That's one thing about our team, they are a pretty close-knit team."

Carson, who rushed 18 times for 308 yards and four scores and threw a last-second game-winning touchdown pass against Riley-Riley County last Friday, had another big game.

He carried 20 times for 158 yards and a score, threw for 24 yards, caught three passes for 43 yards, had three punt returns for 47 yards, kicked two extra points and intercepted a pass. Blake carried 19 times for 140 yards and two TDs, and threw for 81 yards.

"They are talented across the board and we knew that with them coming in," Montgomery said. "We knew we would have to play our best game, and quite frankly, I don't think we played our best game."

Offensively, TMP delivered 486 yards of total offense against a struggling Ellinwood team last week. Against Clay Center, a Class 4A playoff squad last year, the Monarchs had trouble moving the ball. Clay Center used some different fronts, including a five-man look that TMP hadn't seen on film.

"Their defense had us on our heels," Montgomery said. "They gave us some looks that we weren't prepared for, so our offensive linemen struggled with making some of those adjustments and we were just never able to bounce back from it."

Senior Luke Brull rushed for 203 yards and sophomore Nick Schmidt tacked on 144 yards last week, but TMP had 20 carries for 33 yards versus Clay Center.

"We had to take away the tackle box, force them into a perimeter team and I thought our guys did a pretty good job on that," Rice said. "I think our kids are really understanding more and more what we talk about with run fits and being in their gap and doing their job, and then just guys flying with great effort."

After the Monarchs' first possession, TMP had a 12-yard punt that gave Clay Center a short field. Carson tacked on the first score on a 20-yard run. Then, the Monarchs gained four yards on its second possession and had a 27-yard punt.

"Their d-line was pretty aggressive, along with their linebackers and they blitzed quite a bit," Zimmerman, who finished 5-of-21 for 108 yards with three interceptions and a score, said.

After a 19-yard punt return from Carson, Blake rushed for 17 yards and then scored on a six-yard run. In the second quarter, Blake tacked on a 1-yard run, and then sophomore Ricky Huse tallied a 18-yard score off a reverse for a 26-0 lead with 4:02 left in the first half.

"We struggled all night," Montgomery said.

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