Billies begin 8-4A play on right foot with win
It’s a fact a football team cannot go undefeated in conference play if it doesn’t win its first league game. Monticello head coach Marty Davis can cross that goal off the list now.
A week after suffering a disappointing six-point loss to an opponent in a lower classification, the Billies rebounded with a 25-22 victory over Star City at Hyatt Field that got their Class 4A, District 8 season off on the right foot.
Improving to 2-2 overall, Monticello joined the other 8-4A home teams in the win column. Defending state champion and preseason league favorite Warren made an early statement by drubbing Crossett 44-6, while Hamburg did enough to get by DeWitt 21-8 and Dumas blasted Dollarway 46-14.
With those three teams, though, picked by most two finish 1-2-3 in the conference, is Monticello. Davis said before the season, “I like where they picked us (Hooten’s Arkansas Football Magazine has the Billies ranked fourth in the league) but I think we better than that. We have a chance to have a real good football team. I really believe that.”
Step 1 has been completed.
The Billies must hold that impetus, however, because Hamburg comes calling this weekend. Kickoff at Hyatt Field is set for 7 p.m.
“We are for sure a better team than we were last week,” Davis said after the three-point win over Star City. “We just continue to get better week after week. Hamburg is picked as one of the top two teams in our conference and they will be well-prepared and well-coached in what they do. They have the same record as we do and similar non-conference opponents.
“I think the win Friday night game us much-needed momentum and confidence.”
In a contest nowhere near as close as the final score would indicate, Monticello shot out to a 22-7 lead by intermission and relied on its defense in the second half.
“I thought our defense played a very good game against a very good team,” Davis noted. “We tackled a lot better and our kids were not out of position. I’m extremely proud of how our kids responded when the game got tight toward the end. Our kids never gave in and played hard the entire ball game.”
The fourth-year head Billie pointed to both his units’ opening possessions as the turning points in the game. After holding the Bulldogs on the game’s opening drive, Monticello struck quickly to grab an early lead.
Senior quarterback Ryan Lambert found junior wide receiver Colton Oltmann from 44 yards away on the Billies’ first offensive play from scrimmage to stake the hosts to a 7-0 lead (after senior Tyon Rhodes’ extra point).
Later in the first quarter, junior running back Kevious Simpson found the end zone from two yards out to put Monticello up by 14 points. Star City scored in the second period but the Billies had the answer when Lambert found senior tight end Zaydrian Goodwin on a 10-yard scoring toss. Junior running back Brayln Owens hauled in Lambert’s two-point conversion pass and Monticello ended a dominant 24 minutes.
“Our offense played really well the first half and scored enough points to win the game,” Davis said. “We had no lost fumbles and our execution is getting better as we progress, both offensively and defensively. We ran the ball well, and threw and caught the ball well all night. I thought we did a good job on both sides of the ball.
“Our opening defensive stance, I thought, set the tone in the first half for us on the defensive side of the ball. Our opening possession and score for sure got us off to a great start. The one-play score allowed us to play real well the first half and allowed us to hang on and win the game.
“We did have a break down on one of our special teams, but that is easily corrected. Our special teams did a good job all night, with that exception. Our field-goal and extra-point teams did their job well, even with the mishandled snap. That enabled us to get the point spread we needed to win the game.”
Even though Star City outscored Monticello 15-3 after intermission, the 23-yard field goal Davis alluded to off the foot of Rhodes gave Monticello all the cushion it needed.
Lambert once again was the offensive catalyst, passing just four times but completing three for 83 yards, and rushing for another 82 yards.
With the long scoring reception, Oltmann paced the Billies in that category with two catches for 73 yards.
Defensively, a pair of senior linebackers came to play. Austin Patton led Monticello with 14 tackles and Goodwin added 12 stops. Both players finished with seven solo tackles.
As a team, the Billies were outgained in total offense 398-273 and in first downs 24-13 but caused two Star City turnovers (a fumble recovery by senior Logan Gilliam and an interception by classmate Austin Morgan) that more than equaled the yardage disparity.
“It’s always good to win, especially your first conference game,” Davis said. “The kids bounced back really well from last week’s disappointing loss. We played extremely hard and well enough to win a hard-fought ball game.”
Aside from this Friday’s Hamburg-Monticello matchup, other 8-4A games will send Dollarway to DeWitt, Dumas to Crossett and Warren to Star City.