TMP looks to bounce back
By AUSTIN COLBERT
The Thomas More Prep-Marian football team has lost back-to-back games to Clay Center and Larned by a combined 63-15.
From the outside it might look as if both games were mismatches, but in reality TMP (1-2) was only a couple plays away from possibly winning both games.
"The score doesn't show that we were in the red zone four times as an offense last Friday night against Larned and just didn't come up with scores," TMP coach John Montgomery said. "Clay Center was the same story. Down in the red zone twice and it's a two-score game that we lose by. I feel we are a very good 1-2 team who has yet to put the whole thing together."
TMP will get another chance to complete the puzzle at 7p.m. Friday when it visits Ellsworth (2-1), a game that goes beyond getting to .500 on the season, but will be important to keep the confidence level high on a young Monarch team.
Larned (3-0) defeated TMP 41-8 last week in the Monarchs' home opener, which was also homecoming. It was a harsh slap in the face to a team that fully expected to win.
"You can't feel good getting beat by 33 at your homecoming in your home opener. There were definitely some shaking heads in the locker room afterward," TMP junior quarterback Max Megaffin said. "Our big theme for the week is to make sure we finish our drives offensively ... We've been down in the red zone four or five times the last couple of games and just didn't punch it in."
And it's not the offense that is completely at fault for the losses. The Monarch defense has been plagued by the same disease it had a year ago, where it gives up big, game-changing plays.
Two weeks ago at Clay Center, the Tigers scored on their first play from scrimmage via a 51-yard touchdown run. Last week against Larned, the Indians scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 73-yard touchdown pass.
"Those first play scores, defensively, really bring you down," TMP junior linebacker Cameron Fouts said. "Pregame you are so pumped to get a quick stop and score first, and then when that happens it just kind of kills you. That's what we need to cut down on."
Montgomery believes the Monarchs are close on both sides of the football. Right now it's about getting each player to do their 1/11th they need to compete as a team on each down. Too many times it's only been eight or nine players showing up per play.
"We are one or two guys away from taking a short run and making a touchdown out of it," Montgomery said. "We are a read here on defense away from a negative play that ends up going for a big play. We are one or two guys away offensively and defensively from having a lot of success."
With upcoming games against La Crosse (3-0) and Phillipsburg (3-0), Ellsworth represents a crucial game in terms of keeping TMP away from the slippery slope that comes with losing confidence after tough losses.
Ellsworth is 2-1, but the wins have come against Russell -- at team that has lost eight straight dating back to last year -- and against Class 2A Republic County, which has been outscored 135-8 this season. The Bearcats' loss was to Larned 37-29 in Week 1.
But TMP knows the numbers don't mean a thing if it can't correct the little mistakes that are making a big difference each game.
"I think our confidence was a little bit shaken last Friday," Montgomery said. "Once again we are coming into Week 4 saying there are still numerous mistakes we can control and fix that will put us in a great position to still have a lot of success this year.
"The beauty of it is we still have a lot of season in front of us. We are playing to be at our best once districts roll around."