Monroe City junior, Tariq Garner had a career night Friday as he rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns as the Panthers beat Louisiana 55-26 at Lankford Field.
“It feels good,” Garner said. “It has been a while since we had a win, so it feels real good.”
Monroe City coach David Kirby echo’d his running back’s statement.
“It feels really good (to win),” Kirby said. “These kids have worked real hard and for them to get another win, that is a good thing for them.”
But, even though the Panthers won, they had to work to earn it.
Louisiana built up a 14 point lead before Monroe City had played even one snap on offense.
“At that point in the game, the kids just have to have a little faith,” Kirby said. “These guys never get down. We have had a tough run the last couple of weeks, but they were able to mentally stay strong and they knew that they had the offensive firepower and defensive firepower tonight to comeback and chip away.”
It started with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Louisiana’s Brycen Cropp just 17 seconds into the game. The Bulldogs followed up their kickoff return by getting the ball back on the kickoff to Monroe City. It took Louisiana nine plays to cover 49 yards and get into the end zone. The drive was capped off by quarterback Zach Richardson’s two-yard run.
“That was a little rough beginning,” Garner said. “The opening kickoff they took it back, but we didn’t lay down. We kept fighting.”
Monroe City got on the board on its second drive of the game.
Tariq Garner had runs of 33 and 32 yards to set the Panthers up with a first and goal from the two at which point quarterback Grant O’Bryan was able to burst through the Louisiana defense for a touchdown.
“I think our line kind of got mad and decided to step it up,” Garner said. “They made some big holes.”
After forcing Louisiana to punt on the ensuing drive, Monroe City took over on its own 29 and Garner stepped up big again. The junior running back broke free for a 65 yard run to give the Panthers first and goal from Louisiana’s six. Two plays later, Garner found his way into the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 with 10:20 left in the second quarter.
Two plays into Louisiana’s next drive, Johnathan Shuck came up with a interception. Garner had another huge run for 37 yards. The Panthers were given an extra 15 yards when Louisiana’s Collin Stark was ejected for attempting to punch a Monroe City player.
That gave Monroe City (2-5 CCC) a first and 10 on the 20 yard line. On the next play, O’Bryan completed a 20 yard pass to Kyle Fulton to give the Panthers their first lead of the game at 20-14 with 8:26 left in the second quarter.
Garner found the end zone for the second time when he scored with 0:50 left.
However, that wasn’t the end of the scoring. Cropp had his second kick return of the game when he took the ball back 92 yards for a touchdown with 0:37 left on the clock.
Garner rushed for 218 yards in the first Monroe City built up a 26-20 halftime lead.
Monroe City’s lost the lead to open the second half as the Panthers’ special teams came up short again.
Louisiana (1-6, 2-4 CCC) kicked off and recovered the ball at Monroe City’s 21 yard line. It took two plays for the Bulldogs to get in the end zone and tie the game.
“We are going to have to focus on being mentally stronger at the start of the halves,” Kirby said. “That was my fault. I just have to make sure I do a better job making sure they are focused when they come out.”
However, that would be the last time the game was tied.
Garner carried the ball all four times on the Panthers’ next drive. Garner’s TD was his third of the game. Garner also converted the two-point play to put Monroe City back out in front.
Freshman Cody Porter joined the rushing parade when he scored on a 70 yard run to increase the Panthers’ lead to 40-26. O’Bryan then scored on an 18 yard run to open the fourth quarter and followed that up by completing the two-point pass to Dylan Buckman.
Midway through the fourth, Garner found the end zone again on a 17 yard run.
With Monroe City’s JV squad in, Louisiana finally got back into the end zone on a five yard carry from Lane Rule. Richardson then ran in the two-point play to cut Monroe City’s lead to 55-34 ith 5:11 left in the game.
As a team, the Panthers finished with 649 yards of total offense with 602 of that coming on the ground.
“Our offensive line came out tonight and was just able to make holes for all the guys,” Kirby said. “We were able to hit those holes hard and make good decisions with the ball. All praises go to Caleb Fuller, J.D. Brown, Alex Falls, Tanner Pugh, Zach Benson, Dylan Buckman and Johnathan Shuck. They played their butts off tonight.”
Porter finished the game with 110 yards on the ground while O’Bryan had 52 yards. Freshman Darius Holland closed out the game carrying the ball for Monroe City and turned in 38 yards.
Through the air, O’Bryan was 2-of-4 for 47 yards and a score.
Monroe City will be on the road next week as the Panthers travel to Highland to take on the Cougars (1-6). Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.