Prior to the beginning of the Class 2 District 6 quarterfinal between Monroe City and Bowling Green on Friday night, game officials ask each coach if there were any trick plays in the respective repertoires of the teams.
An official said that Monroe City Head Coach David Kirby quipped, “Only if we pass.” That made sense for the Panthers, who have used the fabled Wing-T run-oriented offense to produce a 24-1 record over the last two years.
True-to-form, Monroe City got the opening kickoff marched on a 69-yard, seven-play drive, scoring a touchdown when Gage Bottoms raced 6 yards untouched into the end zone. With a missed two-point conversion, Monroe City led 6-0 with 9:29 left in the first quarter.
After intercepting a pass at the 50-yard line, Monroe City, behind the running of Zach Osborn and Keenan Batsell, moved the ball to the 16-yard line in six plays. Then, came the trick play, at least based on the Kirby pregame observation. Blake Hays dropped back and nailed a 16-yard pass to a wide-open Osborn for a touchdown, catching the Bowling Green offense flat-footed. Less than halfway through the quarter, Monroe City was up 12-0.
The Panther offense rolled for the rest of the game. Bowling Green, which entered the game 7-3, had no solutions for the potent Monroe City offense, as the Panthers raced to a dominating 48-12 win, advancing to the District semifinals, hosting Clark County, which blanked Palmyra, 36-0, on Friday night.
Hays, who went 3-for-6 passing with three touchdowns, posted his best game of the year, Kirby said.
“We are a multiple offense and Blake is very good quarterback. He has been for three years,” Kirby said. “We try to take what the defense gives us. We were able to spread things out and run our option attack. Blake is a fantastic option quarterback. We saw some things the defense was giving us… and Blake took some shots. He came out tonight and showed that he can put some balls on the money.”
But the Monroe City rushing game could not be stopped, as Panthers runners posted 416 yards on 44 runs – and an astounding 9.6 yards per rush. And Osborn, as he has been all year, was the star.
The talented senior ran the ball 10 times for 152 yards, scoring on a 42-yard run, in addition to catching one of the three Hays touchdown passes. On his 42-yard touchdown run, Antwuan Battle threw a huge block, opening an outside lane for Osborn to run past the remaining defenders for the touchdown.
“On that play, we changed our formation a bit, and our running back (Battle) threw a huge block and our O-line blocked really well,” Osborn said. “We had a little vinegar in us tonight.”
Monroe City took a 26-6 lead into halftime. The game was all-but-iced on the first play of the second half when Damian Holland grabbed an interception, giving the ball to Monroe City at the Bowling Green 18-yard. On the first Monroe City play of the half, Batsell ran 18 yards for an easy touchdown, giving Monroe City a 32-6 lead.
“We went out and made some good plays tonight,” Kirby said. “There were some gaps in their defense that we tried to take advantage of …our offensive line likes to move the line of scrimmage and we have some talented backs who can turn three yards on five-, or 10- or `15-yard play.”
The District semifinal is a rematch of two Clarence Cannon Conference powerhouse teams. On Oct. 12, Monroe City, behind a big-play offense, downed Clark County , 44-20. In that game, Monroe City went up 6-0 only 45 seconds into the game when Keenan Batsell raced 51 yards for a touchdown, while Osborn later reeled off a 92-yard touchdown run. Batsell’s 314-yard night led a 550-yard rushing attack by the Panthers.
Kirby believes Clark County to come to Monroe City this week, prepared to play a more competitive game.
“I expect a tough, physical game. They are not the team we played three weeks ago,” Kirby said. “They have some kids back who are healthy. We are going to have to focus on our alignment, our assignments and our technique.”
The Panthers and Clark County are scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. on Friday at Lankford Field in Monroe City.