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Clean slates for TMP, Russell

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Last week's game against Phillipsburg felt a whole lot like last season for the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team.

It wasn't the 56-7 loss that stung, but that it happened with so many key players out because of injuries, something that also ravaged the Monarchs a year ago.

"It's rough looking back on last season and seeing that happen all season then it just plagues us in the last week or two," TMP junior running back Nick Schmidt said. "But we got most people coming back, other than a few starters. It sucks because the depth isn't there as it was before, but we have people stepping up and they are doing good."

Schmidt was just one of the players that missed last week's game. He suited up, but a shoulder sprain kept him from playing. Schmidt is nearly back to 100 percent and should be a go for TMP's district opener at 7 p.m. Friday in Russell.

The Monarchs will also get wide receivers Taylor Wasinger and Jeffrey Richmeier back on the field. Kicker Jack You will be ready to play, as will Ryan Mayorga, who suffered a concussion and only played a half against Phillipsburg.

Unfortunately for TMP, there is bad news on the injury front as well. Starting offensive lineman and senior captain Aaron Moore broke a bone near his ankle and will miss the remainder of the season. Starting senior linebacker Michael Schulte -- another captain -- will miss a second game because of a concussion, although he is expected to return next week against Scott City.

"Any time you lose a kid it's tough, especially when you lose a guy that's a senior and a captain, which both Aaron and Michael are. It's a double whammy," TMP football coach John Montgomery said. "To lose (them) going into districts in such an important scenario at such an important time is big."

On a positive side, the start of district play means clean slates for both Russell and TMP. Both team's enter district play at 1-5 and are coming off games they'd both like to forget.

TMP has lost its last two games to La Crosse and Phillipsburg by a combined 109-14, while Russell is coming off losses to Southeast of Saline and Sacred Heart by a combined 116-0. The Broncos only win came in Week 4 over winless Republic County, 26-12.

While TMP's problem has been injuries, Russell's problem has been youth. The Broncos' roster is made up of nearly half freshmen and first-year coach Chuck Bisbee has had his hands full with a schedule that includes some of the best teams in Class 3A, including 6-0 Beloit.

"The biggest thing is the competition in the (North Central Activities Association)," Bisbee said. "There are three teams in the league that are probably top five or six in the state. We can't physically match up. Stopping seniors with freshmen is just really difficult."

But the start of district play means whatever happened in the past is no longer important. Both TMP and Russell know they will be playoff bound if they can just win two of their final three games in a district that also includes Scott City (5-1) and Hoisington (2-3).

This approach has certainly brought in added excitement to the Monarchs who haven't had much to cheer about over its current five-game losing streak.

"The start of the week we came out and were more energized than I think we have been since the second game," Schmidt said. "(Russell) is going to come out and want to win this game, too. Same point of view on both teams -- same records, same everything right now. We are going to go out and fight and they are going to do the same."

Bisbee knows, despite the identical records, that his team could be physically outmatched once again on Friday against TMP. The youth has forced him to keep things a lot simpler than he would have liked and the brutal schedule has made progress a chore.

But one thing he hasn't questioned is the team's willingness to come out and give it everything it has.

"As young as we are, the kids continue to fight. As they get bigger and stronger, the success will come. It's just real hard for them right now," Bisbee said. "I think (TMP) is going to be big and strong for us. But I think we can do some things to get a stop and then if we can score on them early I think we will have a chance."