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TMP faces tough test with Scott City

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

On Friday, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School football coach John Montgomery turns 31. Just don't expect him to bring it up in conversation knowing that Friday has a much greater significance with it being the final guaranteed home game of the season for the Monarchs.

"I'm going to get a birthday every year, but senior night is only going to come around once for most of these guys," Montgomery said. "So it's really less about that and more about them and trying to create a moment. We talk a little bit about moments from time to time, and trying to create a moment for them so when they look back they can be proud of what they were able to accomplish."

TMP (2-5) will host defending 3A state champion Scott City (6-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Lewis Field Stadium. It will be the second Class 3A, District 15 game for each team with a trip to the state playoffs on the line. TMP is coming off a 49-0 win at Russell, while Scott City defeated Hoisington 14-0 last week.

Scott City is ranked No. 4 in Class 3A in the statewide media poll. The Beavers defeated TMP 58-0 a year ago en route to a 14-0 season.

"Scott City, what they bring with them is certainly a great understanding of their offensive and defensive schemes, which means they execute at a high level," Montgomery said. "They bring in with them a confidence and swagger about them that I think gives them an advantage over a lot of teams."

TMP is coming off a game where it executed well against an outmanned Russell team. The game ended with the Monarchs' first shutout win since 2003 against Hoisington.

Russell was held to 96 yards of total offense, compared to 265 yards for TMP. Three lost fumbles by the Broncos and 21 points in the first five minutes of the game paved the way for TMP's 1-0 start to district play.

It was TMP's first win since a season-opening 24-8 victory at Ellinwood, and the difference has been seen in practice this week for the Monarchs.

"This week has been a little bit of a breath of fresh air for us as a team. For the majority of the season we have been coming out and it's been grinding after a loss," Montgomery said. "But being able to come out after a win, you got to see the momentum that a win brought to this week of practice."

Key for TMP getting past Scott City will be keeping its emotions in check. The Monarchs have 12 seniors on their roster, all of which could be playing their final game at Lewis Field Stadium in front of their home crowd on Friday.

This fact has barely been brought up throughout most of the week at practice, but tonight the Monarchs will hold their senior dinner -- which includes steaks for the seniors and hamburgers for everyone else -- and that's when most of the players believe the reality of the situation will finally set in.

"After the last senior dinner it's going to really hit that it's senior night," senior lineman Adam Schibi said. "It's kind of there as an emotion in the back of our head, but we can't let it bother us that it's senior night. Got to put that aside and play the game."

Schibi is especially looking forward to Friday's game after having his junior season end early when he needed to have Tommy John surgery follow a hit in the Russell game last year.

And for most of the other seniors, it's about leaving behind something they can be proud of. First and foremost on that list would be a trip to the state playoffs, a place TMP hasn't been since the 2002 season. It's this hope of a playoff berth that the players want to keep at the forefront, not the fact that Friday is senior night.

"I don't want to think about it being the last home game of the season -- we are looking forward to having another home game after districts," senior wide receiver Ryan Mayorga said. "All of us want to leave a mark on TMP before we leave. I think we are doing a pretty good job, hopefully."

For most of the young coaching staff, they remember going through their own senior night not that long ago. And for Montgomery, who is in his fourth season at TMP and second as head coach, this will be the first senior class he has helped coach all four seasons.

"I've certainly saw them develop and mature over the last four years and it's been exciting to watch," Montgomery said. "As a coach, I want nothing more than to send them away from their last guaranteed home game successful with a great taste in their mouth. We are doing everything within our power to try and put them in the best position to have success on Friday night.

"We want that to be special for them ... the best birthday present I could ask for would certainly be a win. There is no question about that."