TMP holds off comeback, picks up second win
Published on -10/14/2012, 8:14 PM
By NICK McQUEEN
A game featuring two teams scratching and clawing for anything positive out if their season and a fresh start in Class 3A, District 15 nearly turned into a nailbiter Friday night at Lewis Field Stadium.
Had it not been for a sideline catch by Thomas More Prep-Marian senior Kade Megaffin early in the fourth quarter, Russell might have been able to continue its momentum it had built after falling down big early.
As it stands, the Monarchs were able to thwart off a comeback effort and pick up a 36-26 victory, their second of the season. Russell fell to 1-6, 0-1 in district play.
"The ball isn't always going to bounce our way," TMP coach John Montgomery said. "Adversity is going to come in every football team, and good teams know how to step up and meet the challenge.
"They did that this evening," he added. "When we get into a situation where we need to close out the game, we need to finish."
Megaffin's catch did just that. On third-and-18 from their own 24-yard line after a sack, Monarch senior Shane Zimmerman found Megaffin down the home sideline with the wind at his back. Megaffin toed the line and made the 34-yard grab. This coming after he had dropped two passes from Zimmerman earlier in the game. With Russell rebounding from a 22-0 hole to cut the lead to 11, the catch took away the visitor's momentum.
"Big plays. TMP got a couple big plays that really allowed them to keep that lead," Russell coach Dave King said. "We couldn't chip away from it. The long pass up the sideline was the biggest play of the second half."
There weren't many big plays in the first half, but the Monarchs were clicking on all cylinders behind senior running back Luke Brull, and looked well on their way to win No. 2.
Forcing Russell to a three-and-out on its first possession, TMP (2-5, 1-0 district) used just six plays on a short field to find the end zone. Brull rushed in from four yards out for his first of three TDs on the night.
Russell couldn't manage anything, and midway through the second quarter, Brull's second score put the Monarchs up 22-0.
"We did some good things, but for us, the game just came down to a really slow start," King said. "We came out in the first half and did not execute like we need to to win the game."
Russell found its momentum in the form of TMP penalties. On a drive to end the half, Russell marched 65 yards with 30 of those yards coming on TMP defensive penalties. The first came for roughing the passer with Russell facing a third down and long from its own 34 after a holding call.
Russell junior quarterback Alex Baldwin capped the drive with a 22-yard scoring connection to junior tight end Eric Rourke.
"They started doing some things we really hadn't spent a lot of time working on with some different formations," Montgomery said. "They caught us a little bit unsure a few times defensively.
"They were able to capitalize on that," he added.
TMP led 29-6 early in the third, but after a missed 33-yard field goal attempt by senior Carlos Duenes, Russell scored back-to-back TDs, an 84-yard pass down the middle from Baldwin to senior tight end David Crawford and a 10-yard run by senior fullback Dylan Walker.
"I'm proud of the kids for fighting to get back in the game in the second half," King said. "We played better but we have to execute better in the first half."
Russell had all the momentum before Megaffin's catch, a play that sparked the Monarchs' defense as well. Russell had negative yards on its first two fourth-quarter possessions, while TMP found the end zone with Brull capping the night with his third score. He rushed for 134 yards on the game. Walker, a lineman to start the season, led Russell's run game with 80 yards on 18 carries.
"We talked about being physical and this being a game of toughness," Montgomery said. "The way they came out in the first half, I felt was textbook toughness as we want them to be."
The win gives the Monarchs a leg up in the district race and a possible postseason berth. TMP travels to unbeaten Scott City on Friday. The Beavers, coming off a 36-0 win against Hoisington on Friday, is ranked No. 2 in the statewide media poll. Russell travels to Hoisington.