The Monroe City football team proved Saturday in a 44-7 win over Westran that its pounding run game could overpower a dynamic spread offense.
All week long, Monroe City running backs Cole Pennewell and Zach Osborn waited for their opportunity to prove a point in Saturday’s Class 1 quarterfinal at Westran.
They wanted to show the world the Panthers pounding run game, which carried them to an undefeated record in the Clarence Cannon Conference, could overpower a dynamic spread offense.
“It was poster board material all over the radio this week … (they) said the CCC was a run-first conference and we were going to have to figure out how to handle a spread team,” Pennewell said. “All that did was set us up and fire us up.”
Monroe City (13-0) rushed for 436 yards, averaging 10 yards per carry, en route to a 44-7 win to reach the state semifinals for the second straight season. The Class 1 top ranked Panthers return home next Saturday as they play host to East Buchanan for a berth in the state championship.
Osborn ran the ball 10 times for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the attack, while Pennewell had nine rushes for 151 yards and a score.
After falling behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Panthers swarming defense limited the Hornets to 64 yards and just one first down the rest of the game while the offense rattled off 44 unanswered points.
Pennewell and Osborn went on running sprees with the help of huge openings created by their aggressive offensive line, which took control of the line of scrimmage in the second quarter.
Osborn was the first to make a move.
Taking a handoff off tackle, Osborn moved behind solid blocking and exploded past the Westran defense, racing 70 yards for a touchdown. This run came on the heels of an 84-yard touchdown dash in the district final game against South Shelby last week. With a successful 2-point conversion, Monroe City took an 8-7 lead and never looked back.
After holding Westran to a three-and-out, the Hornets punted and Monroe City took over on its own 14-yard line.
Pennewell’s turn for magic.
On the first play of the series, Pennewell took a handoff, raced inside, seemed to trip a bit, then followed his blockers, who opened a huge hole. He raced 86 yards to the end zone and with a conversion it was 16-7.
Pennewell did not expect to score when he received the handoff.
“Actually right at the beginning of the run, I had to hurdle a guy on the line, so I did not immediately see it developing,” he admitted. “But man, my line up front they blocked really well for me. I had three blockers up front, they opened it for me to where I had to pick a hole and go.”
Osborn opened the second half by racing 65 yards for his second touchdown, which gave Monroe City a 36-7 lead.
The speedster struck a similar tone as Pennewell and gave all the credit to his blockers.
“I can’t do anything without my line,” he said.
Monroe City center Jonathan Saxbury, a 6-foot-1, 297-pound stalwart, dominated the trenches for the Panthers. He blew off the line, often taking out two defenders.
“Last week, we challenged Jonathan to step up his game. He did,” Monroe City coach David Kirby said.
Osborn credited Saxbury for creating running lanes that helped the running backs produce so well during the game.
“They make us look good,” Osborn said. “This big guy can open some big holes, as can our entire front line.”
It is a mutual admiration society.
“These guys make us look good,” Saxbury said. “Man, they make up for a lot of our mistakes. They are shifty as all get out.”