Kayla Greco | Democrat
Monticello receiver London Gandy dives for extra yardage after being tripped up in Saturday’s OCIAA Class A game against Port Jervis. The Raiders won the Route 42 showdown 35-7.
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 22, 2013 In this, its fifth year in existence, the Monticello varsity football program finally fielded a junior varsity (JV) program; admittedly a bit late to have a positive near-term effect on the success of the varsity squad. "No JV equals no experience," said Panther coach Matt Buddenhagen after another frustrating, turnover laden 35-7 division loss to Route 42 foe Port Jervis. "Our football IQ just isn't there...It's been a complete headache."
Port Jervis came in looking for its third straight win after a rough start to the season. "We're streaking right now," offered Port head coach Matt Polanis. "We got stopped up there early [in the season] but I think we're playing some tough ball right now."
Tough ball indeed, as the Raiders, after a shaky 1-2 start, have managed to place themselves in the Class AA playoff picture with their stingy defense forcing lots of turnovers on Saturday.
"I think we had eight turnovers," said Buddenhagen. "You can't win a game with eight turnovers.
Basically all of Port’s scores in the first half came off turnovers."
To make matters worse for the Monties, they played without starting quarterback John Harned, who was forced to sit out the game after being ejected from last week’s game against Saugerties.
Terry Duncan, who filled in admirably for Harned last week after the ejection, started the game at quarterback. But Port was keying on Duncan, especially taking direct snaps in the shotgun and running with the ball.
When the Panthers (1-6) looked to pass, Buddenhagen went to sophomore JV call-up Kyle McCreery as quarterback.
The Panthers started off the game with great field position, near mid-field, but after a nice run from Duncan into Raider territory at the 37, McCreery would be sacked on third and thirteen forcing a fourth down punt.
After trading three failed drives each, the first quarter ended with Port driving to the Panther five-yard line. Just seven seconds into the second quarter, Justin Drew plowed in for the score on a hard-fought run to register the game's first points. The successful PAT attempt gave Port a 7-0 lead early into the quarter.
The Raiders wasted no time in putting up their next score, as on 4th and long, Monticello punter Anthony Bell mishandled the long snap deep in Panther territory and was tackled at his own 16-yard line. Two plays later, Wesley Schools, assisted with a crushing block from fullback Dan DeCarlo, took the ball in from 11 yards out to give the Raiders a 13-0 lead. Jack Piscitelli would again split the uprights making it 14-0, Port, with 9:39 still left in the first half.
"Those turnovers absolutely killed us," reiterated Buddenhagen.
"They seemed to come out flat in the first-half," offered Polanis about Monticello. "They've got some real athletic kids and a great coach so that seemed very curious to me."
If the Monties were flat in the first half, they came out anything but in the second. The Panther D stiffened and it was three and out for Port in the second half's opening drive. A poor punt left the Monties to start their first drive of the half at midfield. This time, though, the Panthers capitalized. Aided by a nice Dante Smalls catch at the Raider 36, a pass interference call on Port and some hard-nosed running from Sterling Morrison, the Panthers got on the board as Morrison scored from six yards out to make the score a more palpable 20-6 with plenty of time left. Bell's PAT was good and the Monties, with some momentum, were within two scores.
Bell blasted the ensuing kickoff out of the Port end-zone, and the suddenly inspired Monti defense held again, forcing Port to its second consecutive three-and-out.
A few positive Panther plays and another Port pass interference call had the Monties back in Raider territory at the 46. But the drive stalled on fourth and four on an incomplete pass from McCreery that was just too high for its intended receiver.
On its next possession, Port seemed to be stopped again. But on fourth down and in punt formation, Monticello jumped offsides, giving Port a first down at the Monti 49.
“What's wrong with you! We practice this [the hard count] all week," yelled Buddenhagen to his offending player.
"That offsides play figured large. Seems like a routine mistake, but it really sunk us," said Panther assistant Mike Greco.
On the next play, Drew broke a huge run to the one, followed by a walk-in touchdown from Saim Mairu. Mairu followed with a similarly easy two-point run, making it 28-7.
Port sealed the game on Monticello's ensuing drive, when linebacker Tanner Sexton intercepted a McCreery floater and took it to the house to make it 34-7. Piscitelli's third PAT of the day provided the final tally, keeping the Port’s faint playoff hopes alive.
"We needed this win here," said Polanis, whose team improved to 4-3 and now faces Minisink Valley Friday night in another must-win situation. "It's definitely going to be a tough one next week [versus Minisink] but we've improved our play each and every week and that certainly showed today. With a little help from some of the other teams in the division, I think we can sneak in there [the Section IX playoffs]. I like where we are right now."