Another tough test for Monarchs
By AUSTIN COLBERT
It was a scenario that turned out to be too much of a good thing for the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team. Last week against La Crosse, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 2-1A, the Monarchs took an early 7-6 lead, something they hadn't even planned on.
"It's a situation where I think they came out and surprised themselves a little bit when at the end of the first quarter it's 12-7 and at one point in the first quarter we are winning," TMP coach John Montgomery said. "I think they surprised themselves and for a second went, 'Oh my gosh, we can play with great teams.' "
Unfortunately for the Monarchs, they couldn't sustain that same level of play and lost 53-7 to the Leopards. But for the first 12 minutes, TMP proved that it could hang with the best.
"We were with them and made them earn all their plays. We didn't give up anything big on defense and drove down on offense," TMP senior Jared Gabel said. "We just faced a little bit of adversity and didn't come back from it. They amped it up and we didn't."
The task isn't any easier this week when TMP (1-4) hosts Phillipsburg (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Lewis Field Stadium.
Phillipsburg has had only one game stay within 25 points, a 14-6 win at Oakley in Week 3. It's Oakley's only loss to date and is the only game in which the Plainsmen have been scored against.
The Panther defense is giving up only 6 points a game with two shutouts, and will face a TMP offense that averages just 14.2 points per contest.
"It's a rebound week. We got to refocus and get ourselves ready for another quality opponent," Montgomery said. "This is not a week to take off. It's not a week to say, 'Hey, let's nurse some of our bumps and bruises.' This is a week, since we haven't closed that game out, this is a week to go out and try to get the experience of going and making that happen."
Finishing games has been a theme for TMP this season, something it has struggled at doing. Since a 24-8 Week 1 win at Ellinwood, the Monarchs have lost four in a row but competed well in each.
Their most complete game came against Ellsworth where they lost a big lead in the fourth quarter. Now the goal is to learn how to finish games and not just start them.
"We harp on focus, we harp on finishing. It's something we talk about every day," Montgomery said. "It's attention to detail. It's staying true to your fundamentals and technique ... being able to stay mentally focused, stay true to what you've learned and trust yourself in everything you do. That's what it's going to take."
Phillipsburg is led offensively by its three-headed rushing attack of Hunter Kohler, Grant Wickham and Riley Juenemann, all seniors. They have combined for 1,038 yards rushing this season and 16 total touchdowns. Juenemann, the quarterback, has also passed for 622 yards and four touchdowns on 29 of 53 passing.
While it's a non-league, non-district game for TMP, the Monarchs know they need to fine tune as many things as possible with district play beginning next week against Russell.
And if they can learn to finish, TMP believes it can gain a lot of confidence heading into the final weeks.
"If we get a win here it gives us a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence, going into districts. Against La Crosse we proved that we can play against good teams," Gabel said. "The last couple of games we've had drives on our opening possessions and scored. We need to be able to do that the rest of the game."