After a sluggish start, the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team cleaned up a few issues and got rolling on Friday night against Russell.
TMP scored 34 unanswered points and dominated the second half, moving to 1-1 on the season with a 34-6 win over the Broncos at Lewis Field Stadium.
The Monarch offense sputtered for most of the first half but still managed to take a 7-6 lead into halftime. TMP then found its rhythm after the break, scoring touchdowns on four of its first five drives in the second half.
"We just went in the locker room and got a lot more energy," TMP quarterback Kade Harris said. "We have a great coaching staff and they told us to keep our heads up and just keep playing. We fired off really good in the second half. We fixed our mistakes and went from there."
Russell scored on its first drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Jesse Whitmer, and TMP saw two red-zone drives stall out in the first half after being held back by penalties.
The Monarchs had to adjust to losing TMP offensive lineman/linebacker Garrett Pfeifer to a knee injury on the first offensive play.
"We just weren’t focused early," TMP coach Jay Harris said. "Part of that is losing Garrett Pfeifer on the first offensive play of the game, his senior leadership. Other guys stepped in, had to scramble around and get those positions filled. And it took us a while to recover from that, but once we did, everything was good."
After the offensive struggles, Bryce Seib helped spark the Monarchs with a 32-yard run to set up Harris’ 1-yard plunge to put TMP on the board with 2:40 left before halftime.
TMP went up 13-6 on their first possession of the second half after a pass play to Lance Lang took the Monarchs down to the 1. The officials ruled that Lang fumbled while reaching for the end zone, but Jace Wentling recovered in the end zone for a TD.
Harris scored his second touchdown on a 6-yard run in the third quarter, and Seib scored on a 2-yard carry to make it 27-6 early in the fourth.
The Monarchs put an exclamation mark on the win when Harris hit a wide-open Mark Rack for a 95-yard touchdown pass.
"They were biting up quick, so we went deep and Mark had a great catch," Kade Harris said.
Harris threw for 174 yards and Rack had two catches for 109 yards.
"They were stopping our run game so we went to our spread from last year," Kade Harris said. "It was working really well and we got it downfield."
Russell’s best chance to score in the second half came after a long kickoff return by Whitmer, but TMP’s Kendall Walker stuffed a run on 4th-and-1 to end the drive.
"Our front-line guys are doing a great job," Jay Harris said. "We’ve got some good size there and some strong guys."
Harris said Pfeifer could miss about two weeks with the knee injury.
The Monarchs held senior night for fall sports on Friday. TMP has eight senior football players on its roster — Pfeifer, Jace Lang, Ian Chiu, Michael Gross, Zach Meis, Hunter Flax, Aakash Patel and Marcus Lagree.
The Monarchs will play at Plainville next Friday. The Cardinals took a 10-7 loss to Oakley on Friday.
"That was a big confidence builder," Jay Harris said. "It should help us carry it over to next week. We play a tough Plainville team and will be ready for them."
TMP 34, RUSSELL 6
Russell — Whitmer 10 run (run failed)
TMP — Harris 1 run (Wentling kick)
TMP — Wentling fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed)
TMP — Seib 2 run (Wentling kick)
TMP — Harris 6 run (Wentling kick)
TMP — Rack 95 pass from Harris (Wentling kick)