The Monticello Buckaroos had a somewhat sputtering start to the 2016 season, losing to the Grand County Red Devils, 21-7, on August 19.
The 62nd meeting between the two teams (44-14-4 for the Red Devils) came on an evening that was just a little cool in Monticello. The Buckaroo offense was also cool, as they couldn’t find the endzone the entire game. Monticello’s only score came on an 85-yard kickoff return by senior Paul DeAnda.
That lone touchdown, and Talon Black’s subsequent PAT, gave the Bucks a 7-6 lead in the second quarter after a scoreless first quarter.
Grand County (GC) found the endzone first, just seconds into the second quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass from QB Taylor Horton to Brayden Schultz.
DeAnda then worked his return magic on the ensuing kickoff to give the Bucks back the slim lead.
On the kickoff, his first carry of his varsity career, DeAnda recalled, “The ball bounced right to me, I saw an opening and took off.”
Indeed, DeAnda caught the ball on a bounce in full stride and raced untouched into the endzone.
The Buckaroo defense held their own most of the game against a huge Red Devil offense, which sports seven players over 200 pounds, including punishing running back, 214 pound Nick Downard.
The undersized Buck defense, however, only allowed 12 rushing yards in that first quarter, and forced two turnovers in the second quarter to preserve 7-6 at halftime.
The Bucks stopped Grand’s first sustained drive in the second quarter when Shandon Bradford recovered a Red Devil fumble on the Buckaroo seven yard line.
On Grand’s next possession, DeAnda intercepted Horton’s pass in the endzone, returning the ball out to the nine-yard line, ending the Red Devils last possession of the half.
The Buck offense, however, sputtered, managing just one first down in the half with 27-yards rushing and 34 yards passing on two of six passing by junior QB Brayson Wilcox.
Grand opened the second half using their size to move down the field with an eight play, 50-yard drive that gave the Red Devils a 14-7 lead.
MHS answered offensively for the first time, moving 50 yards in just three plays, two Wilcox passes of 15 yards to Max Hedglin and 20 yards to Thomas Anderson, plus a 15-yard Anderson counter play up the middle.
But mistakes cost the Bucks this drive after a holding penalty and a drive-ending interception.
The defense forced a three and out on the Red Devils but Grand returned the favor, forcing the Bucks to punt and then blocking it and recovering the ball on the Buckaroo 10 yard line.
The Bucks looked to hold again, stopping two Red Devil rushes and knocking the Red Devil quarterback out of the game.
But third string freshman QB Bryant Troutt fooled the entire Buck defense. Thet ended up gang tackling Downard, even though Troutt kept the ball on his first-ever varsity play to score from seven yards out.
Grand led 21-7 with 10 seconds in the third. In the fourth, the teams traded punts before the Bucks mounted the only sustained drive of the game.
Hopefully reminiscent of 2015, when the Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter from a 20-8 deficit to win 29-20, Monticello ran off a six-minute, 13 play drive that covered 58 yards, getting to the nine yard line.
But it was not to be in 2016, as the offense lost yards on four consecutive plays to turn the ball back to the Red Devils who ran out the clock for their first win of the year.
For the night, Brayson Wilcox was eight of 16 passing for 97 yards. Max Hedglin had a nice night at wide receiver, making four catches for 62 yards, averaging 15 yards a pop.
Anderson had two catches for 18 yards, Black one for 16 yards and Keaton Young one catch for one yard. As a team, the Bucks managed only 44 yards rushing, with Anderson leading the way with 51 yards in 12 carries.
Defensively, the Bucks rode the Red Devils wellwith their new 3-5 defense causing problems for the massive GC offense. Allowing 161 rushing on 45 carries (only 59 yards in 22 carries in the second half) the Bucks tossed the Devils for a loss nine times.
The Buckaroo secondary held Grand to 86 yards passing, allowing seven completions in 14 tries and one interception. Significantly, 50 of those yards came on a single play in the second quarter.
Brayson Wilson keyed the Buck defense with 13 tackles. Anderson and Tyler Draper had 10 tackles each with Paul DeAnda 7, Paxton Lewis 6 and Max Hedglin 5. Shandon Bradford and Keaton Young had 4 tackles, Gage Wilcox and Ammon Beh 3, Bryson Henderson and Talon Black 2, and Justin Cecil, Spencer Knudsen, and Amalio DeLaFuente 1.
For his part, head coach Art Adair felt good about the young Bucks effort.
“This is the best first game we’ve played in three years in terms of hitting and effort,” Adair claims, especially against a team so much bigger than the Bucks. “We just made too many mistakes that cost us,” he laments, noting there is much to work on.
The Bucks get a week off to do just that before returning to the Buckaroo field on September 2 for a firstever football visit by Wayne County High.