Monroe City overcomes big plays, beats Brookfield

Monroe City senior running back Kelson Painter runs off tackle during Friday’s win over Brookfield at Lankford Field.

MONROE CITY, Mo. — The Monroe City football team ended two weeks of frustration with a 26-12 win over the Brookfield Bulldogs on Friday night at Lankford Field.

After being blanked by Centralia two weeks ago and suffering a second-half letdown against rival Palmyra last week, Monroe City coach David Kirby told his team to reset the season ahead of the game Friday.

“Coach told us to just focus on being 1-0 after tonight,” said Monroe City junior running back Joshua Talton, who posted 97 yards rushing and nailed a critical fourth-down tackle to help preserve the game. “We took two loses from two very good teams. We just wanted to get another W. Feels good.”

Kirby went back to basic Monroe City football. Run. Run. Run.

“That team played their butts off tonight,” Kirby said of the opponent. “We knew with their size it would take a great effort. We had a tough week of practice.”

The Panthers (4-2) never trailed in the game. Monroe City scored two touchdowns in the first half to take a 12-6 lead into halftime.

A stellar third quarter helped the Panthers take control of the game.

Down 12-6, Brookfield took the second-half kickoff, and at first the Bulldogs were seemingly on an unstoppable path to tie the game.

But after allowing the Bulldogs to march from their own 35-yard line to the Monroe City 27-yard line in a drive that went for more than half of the third quarter, the Panthers defense stiffened, holding Brookfield to a turnover on downs.

Monroe City then pieced together a drive that frustrated the bigger Brookfield defenders, controlling the clock and the game as the Panthers marched 73 yards on 17 plays. The drive went over eight minutes, starting the middle of the third quarter and ending with 11:10 left in the game on a Talton 2-yard touchdown run. The Panthers kept the drive alive twice with fourth-down conversions.

But with an 18-6 lead, Brookfield fought back, piecing together a short four-play drive after stopping Monroe City on a fourth down at the Panthers’ 38-yard line. With fourth-and-two from the 31-yard line, Brookfield quarterback Derek Liebhart faked a hand-off in the middle, optioned around end and raced 31 yards for a score.

Monroe City grabbed the ensuing onside kick at its own 45-yard line, ran five plays and scored on a 40-yard run by quarterback Kyle Hays, who moved around right end and raced through the Brookfield defense. With the successful conversion, Monroe City took a 26-12 lead.

The Monroe City defense played hard, holding the Bulldogs on a fourth down at their own 40, only to be called back when an overzealous defensive lineman, Connor Pfaff, knocked Liebhart to the ground, drawing a roughing the passer penalty and giving the Bulldogs another chance.

Then Pfaff, who at halftime was named homecoming king, more than atoned for his mistake. On second down, after a near circus catch by Brookfield’s Carson Beckman, Pfaff shed a much larger lineman, and forcefully batted down a Liebhart pass.

On fourth down, Pfaff raced past two blockers to sack Liebhart, sealing the Monroe City win.

“I just got a fast start and move in for the sack. Earlier, my emotions just got the better of me,” Pfaff said. “We have to always be faster on the defensive line because most lines are always bigger.”

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