Winner take all for TMP vs. Hoisington
By AUSTIN COLBERT
The Thomas More Prep-Marian football team wants Thursday's 7 p.m. season finale at Hoisington to be 'that' game. The one that takes a program from rebuilding to contender, from conference doormat to playoff shoo-in.
Despite having just a 2-6 record, TMP is one win away from its first playoff berth since 2002 and from a major step in the development of the program under second year head coach John Montgomery.
"All season we have been looking for that one game that can be the game that turns the corner for us, that helps us to believe all the work we have been doing is truly paying off," Montgomery said. "Getting to the next step and winning a game against a tough Hoisington team, getting our first playoff berth since 2002, those are things our guys can walk away with and know that they are headed in the right direction."
Hoisington (3-4) has played a nearly identical schedule to TMP, and both sit at 1-1 in Class 3A, District 15 heading into the final week of the regular season.
Scott City (7-1) has already clinched a playoff berth and the district championship with a 14-0 win over Hoisington in Week 7 and last week's 51-7 rout of TMP. Russell has been eliminated after a 49-0 loss to TMP two weeks ago, and last week's 53-14 loss to Hoisington.
This leaves Hoisington and TMP with a winner-take-all battle for the final playoff spot.
"Offensively and defensively, they are pretty much mirror images of us," TMP junior tight end and linebacker Cameron Fouts said. "So this week in practice we are calling our own defensive plays and our own offensive plays and just going out there and doing what we have to do. If you know our defensive and offensive schemes, it will help you just that much more to prepare yourself for Hoisington."
Thursday's game also looks to provide the Monarch's with a measuring stick to gauge their progress, both from last year's 45-0 season-ending loss to Hoisington and from Week 1 this season.
TMP was in a similar situation a year ago, but with a handful of key starters on the bench with injury, the Monarchs were unable to keep pace with the Cardinals, who went on to lose 28-7 to Holcomb in the first round of the playoffs.
It's been difficult at times to tell how much TMP has improved this season after facing a rigorous schedule that included blowout losses to state powers La Crosse (53-7), Phillipsburg (56-7) and Scott City.
But with Hoisington and TMP so evenly matched, this game will be a more accurate representation of how far the Monarchs have come in a year.
"There has definitely been progress -- you can see it in the way we are making our reads and everything," TMP junior quarterback Max Megaffin said. "We've put in a whole offseason of work and coming into the season it's been a little bit of a disappointment. We know we want to finish it on a high note and make the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years. That would be a great way to finish off the season."
And the excitement has been growing for TMP this week.
Everyone from the trainers and managers to the alumni have gotten on board with the belief that this will be the week the playoff draught ends for the Monarchs.
Montgomery believes as much as anyone that his team can accomplish that goal. But what it will come down to is the team believing in itself.
"There have certainly been times when we've stepped on the field as a team and not really had faith in our ability to have success," Montgomery said. "When they come out and do believe they can win, it's amazing the level we are able to play at.
"Sometimes we just need a little bit of a nudge from a coach, from people outside the program, that lets these guys know that they can do it. Just go out there and make it happen."