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TMP takes on improved Clay Center squad

Published on -9/6/2012, 11:59 AM

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At the Buzzer No. 1

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian football coach John Montgomery knows his team is going to face a gritty opponent Friday.

Clay Center finished 4-6 last season, but the Tigers' record was a bit deceiving.

Clay Center had a young group of juniors and sophomores largely manning the offense and defense, and the Tigers started 0-4.

The Tigers rebounded and won four straight, including two district games, before losing their final district game and Class 4A first-round playoff game.

Clay Center (1-0) returned the bulk of its players from that team, including eight starters on offense and seven on defense, and started the season with a 33-26 home victory against Riley County.

"As you look across the board, they have a lot of experience and a lot of game-situation experience," Montgomery said.

The Monarchs (1-0) will meet the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Lewis Field Stadium.

Clay Center senior quarterback Caleb Carson was his team's top offensive weapon against Riley County.

Carson ran 20 times for 314 yards and four touchdowns and completed 4 of 9 passes for 57 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Carson is a jack of all trades for Clay Center.

Montgomery said Carson lines up at quarterback as well as tailback. He also is the team's punter and kicker and returns some punts.

"He's a multitalented type of kid that can do some different things," said fourth-year Clay Center head coach Todd Rice. "The biggest thing about him is he just has fun competing. We are just trying to find different ways to get him the ball."

Montgomery said they run out of multiple different offensive formations -- from spread to the I-formation.

Clay Center runs a base 4-4 defense.

Montomery said he's not as concerned about the additional linebacker in the box as he is about Clay Center's athleticism and size.

"They are an aggressive defense," Montgomery said. "We are going to have to play our best game to date to be successful Friday."

The Monarchs are coming off their first victory of the Montgomery era.

For the past two seasons, TMP's former head coach Jon Borer incorporated a pass-heavy spread offense, and when Montgomery took over, he transitioned the team to more of a balanced offense.

Against Ellinwood in Week 1, TMP executed its plan superbly, winning 36-20.

The Monarchs rushed for 399 yards and threw for three passing touchdowns. Senior running back Luke Brull finished with a career-high 203 yards on 15 carries, while sophomore running back Nick Schmidt ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

"They did some tremendous things last Friday night," Montgomery said about his team's demeanor this week. "They are confident but they are also focused."

They might need to be, because going from Class 2A Ellinwood to Class 4A Clay Center could present an increase in competition.

Though Montgomery didn't want to take anything away from Ellinwood, he admitted Clay Center's senior leadership, depth and overall size could present more of a challenge.

"In order for us to progress as a team, we have to play quality opponents," Montgomery said. "Ellinwood was a quality opponent, and Clay Center is also a quality opponent. They do some things that will test us and prepare us for future games down the road."

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