Montgomery County started strong and sailed to a 34-13 win over Mark Twain.

If it’s true that big players come through when it matters most, the Montgomery County football team’s time to shine Friday against visiting Eastern Missouri Conference foe Mark Twain came rather early.

Actually, it came incredibly early and took the form of a fourth down for Mark Twain deep in its own territory on the opening drive of the game.

Lining up at his 25-yard line, Tigers punter Miguel Mendez bobbled the snap, and after gaining control of the ball, attempted the kick.

What followed was a hit by the Wildcats defense that put the ball on the ground right where defensive lineman Bobby Zwilling could pick it up, so he did, making it a 6-0 game.

That momentum then carried on through the second quarter to allow Montgomery County go into halftime leading 27-7 on its way to beating Mark Twain 34-13.

“We believe it was Blake Eioff who made a really good hit on their punter," Montgomery County coach John Klekamp said. "It was a bad snap, we attacked and he hit him really hard before he could get rid of the ball. Bobby Zwilling picked it up and ran it in. That’s a great way to start a game.”

The Wildcats’ second score was rather unusual and began with a punt at 4:40 of the first quarter on a fourth-and-3 at their on 25-yard line. When the snap went off to the side, so did Nelson, but his punt only went about 10 yards and was recovered by Mark Twain’s Conner Grossmann. About nine yards into his return Grossmann fumbled, which made for a first down for Montgomery County at its own 25-yard line once again.

Less than a minute later Nelson connected with Tim Hall for a 74-yard touchdown pass to make it a 13-0 game. When Nelson then hit Hall on a 54-yard shovel pass on the final play of the quarter that extended the lead to 20-0 with no end to the run of good luck in sight.

Mark Twain did find a remedy for what ailed it in the second quarter, though, thanks mostly to the running of quarterback Lincoln Talbott, who broke up the middle for 27 yards when the pocket collapsed around him on second-and-12 on the first play of the session. That set up a 15-yard pass from Talbott to Avery Epperson that made it first-and-goal at the 2, and after two runs up the middle by Jace Barton and a 5-yard penalty, Talbott swept left for six yards and the score at 8:27.

“Talbott is a senior who has been working his tail off for three years and now he’s getting a chance to put everything together this year,” said Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury. “He’s a pretty good runner and they were shutting down our other running backs, so we tried to see if they could shut him down and they had trouble doing that.”

Now up 20-7, Montgomery County took over on its own 35-yard line. The Wildcats then ran the ball a couple times before taking advantage of the next chance the Mark Twain defense would allow them, which was a 67-yard scoring strike from Nelson to Hall at 6:57 to stretch the advantage to 27-7. Montgomery County then tried to pull away even further on first down and goal at the one after Mark Twain bobbled the ensuing kickoff, but a fumble by Bishop ended those hopes at 5:43.

“We keep telling our players that if they believe in themselves they can get things done. We could have easily given up there, but as long as you can play defense and not give up the big plays, good things can happen,” Asbury said. “We just have to limit the big plays we give up. If we’d done that tonight, who knows where we are? I thought our defense played well except for two pass plays. We’re still learning, so only giving up 34 points tonight was pretty good.”

In the third quarter Mark Twain didn’t fair any better as the Wildcats defense continued to stifle its ground game.

Not only did that allow Montgomery County to sit back and wait on the pass, but it also turned that part of its game plan into a 36-yard touchdown pass at 9:05 from Nelson to Hall that made the score 34-7. The Wildcats also had a 95-yard punt return by Hall called back at 4:31 on a penalty and missed a 35-yard field goal at 5:00 of the fourth.

Talbott threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Grossmann with 1:39 left, but when Mark Twain couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick, the game was just several runs up the middle for the Wildcats from coming to a close.

“We were throwing a lot of short passes and we were tying to catch them off guard a little bit, and we did,” said Asbury. “That’s how (Grossmann) got behind the (Montgomery County defense). Montgomery County caught the ball well and when you make one guy miss, things can happen, and that’s what happened to us tonight.”

Montgomery County, 3-4 overall, is at Wright City on Friday.

Mark Twain, 1-6 overall, hosts Van-Far next Friday.