MONROE CITY, Mo. — Monroe City went toe-to-toe with an aggressive, hard-hitting Bowling Green team Friday night, taking a 28-26 win in the Class 2 District 6 semifinal game at Lankford Field on Friday.

Like two heavyweight boxers in a hunt for a shot at the title, both teams traded blows, taking turns see which fighter could pin his opponent to the ropes.

“That’s what happens when two heavyweight fighters get together,” said Monroe City head coach David Kirby. “It is tough. That was a football game. You had two really good teams going at it. We knew that it was going to be a battle for four quarters.”

The teams traded punches for 48 minutes.

Monroe City took the opening kickoff at its own 27-yard line, pulled off huge chunks of yards, running though the Bowing Green defense, taking five plays to for Ceaton Pennewell to score a touchdown. The Panthers had a 6-0 lead after the missed conversion.

But Bowling Green stuck back. The Bobcats took the kickoff at their 27-yard line and marched 13 plays in six minutes, led by in-your-face running by senior running back Michael Starks, to score a touchdown. With a successful point-after kick, Bowling Green took a 7-6 lead.

After holding Monroe City, Bowling Green went on another 13-play drive in the second quarter, which started at its own 15-yard line, taking just over seven minutes to score and take a 14-6 lead.

Just as it seemed that Monroe City was on the ropes, the Panthers took the ensuing kickoff their own 30-yard line. It took four plays to reach the 48. Then, Joshua Talton took a simple off-tackle play and sprinted 52 yards for a touchdown. With a successful conversion, the game stood tied at 14-14.

But the Panthers punched again, forcing a Bowling Green fumble on the kickoff, taking over at the Bobcats 28-yard line. The Panthers scored five plays later when Hays connected with Logan Buhlig in the corner of the endzone. Monroe City missed the conversion, taking a 20-14 halftime lead.

Bowling Green regrouped at halftime, made some adjustments and came out counterpunching in the second half, virtually controlling the game for near 20 minutes of the half.

The Bobcats scored to tie the game on a 96-yard, 14-play drive, knocking back Monroe City defenders. The game was tied at 20-20 after the missed extra point.

With the score tied at 20-20 with 5:12 left in the game, Bowling Green intercepted a Kyle Hays pass at the Monroe City 32-yard line.

A emotionally charged Bowling Green offensive line fired off the ball, opening running lanes, for a five-play drive that was capped off by a 15-yard run for a touchdown by Charlie Bowen, giving Bowling Green a 26-20 lead with 3:27 left in the game.

But emotions took a bad turn when Bowling Green committed a huge mental mistake as a lineman jawed with the referee following an unsuccessful two-point play following a touchdown. He thought the conversion was good and vocally made his point.

The referee threw a yellow flag high in the air immediately throwing both arms out to signal an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Bowling Green was penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, moving the ball from the 40-yard line back to the 25. The emotional mistake changed Bowling Green’s kickoff strategy, which had been to kick short line drive-shots to keep Monroe City’s speedy and shifty returners, Hays and Joshua Talton, away from the ball.

But the low liner was not an option.

The Bobcats kicked the ball away, with Talton taking it on the run at the Monroe City 45-yard line. Talton followed two key blocks down the sideline, before turning on the jets around the 20-yard line, racing across the middle of the field to elude two Bowling Green tacklers who were tantalizingly close to grabbing Talton’s arm for a stop.

He ran 55 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 26-26 less than 13 seconds after Bowling Green’s go-ahead touchdown.

“I got some great blocks,” Talton said. “As I was running, I could see out of the corner of my eye that two guys were about to get me by the arm, so I just ran away across the field.”

That was the play of the game.

Until the next play.

On the critical two-point conversion, Kirby called a bootleg right to target Buhlig in the corner of the end zone. But Bowling Green shut the play down. Or so it seemed.

Borrowing a page from an NFL Films highlight video, Hays stopped, reversed his field, and rolled to his left looking for an open receiver.

Pennewell saw his quarterback scrambling and worked to his right to get open. Hays spotted him and threw across his body for a perfect strike.

Monroe City took a 28-26 lead, which would clinch the district semifinal win for the Panthers.

“I just did not feel like there was good choice to be made, and I knew the worse that would happen on a two-point conversion was that I would be sacked, so changed up,” Hays said. “I have to give credit to my linemen; they kept the defense off me, and I was able to make the pass.”

Kirby could only shake his head in amazement after the game.

“How about that (Patrick) Mahomes play?” Kirby said. “Kyle is just a gunslinger.”

Monroe City travels to Palmyra for the District championship game this Friday night.

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