Bucks earn spot in title game with epic 21-20 win over Rebels

By David Boyle
News Director
The Monticello High School football team advanced to the inaugural 8-player Utah state championship game by beating the Rebels of Rich County 21-20 in a tightly-contested snowy game at Southern Utah University on Thursday, November 3.
The Buckaroos battled in the game that saw four fumbles lost in freezing and wet conditions in Cedar City, with the difference in the game coming down to execution on point-after touchdown attempts.
Monticello avenged their loss to Rich in the first game of the season with a complete team win in the semifinals. The entire Monticello team stepped up at key moments to beat the Rebels.
Monticello will face the #1-ranked Gunnison Valley Bulldogs in the state championship game this Saturday, November 12 at 7 pm. The game will again be held at SUU’s Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City.
Monticello is looking for their first football championship trophy since 2004, which is also the last time the Bucks played in a state championship game.
The semifinal game between the #2 Rebels and #3 Buckaroos began with Monticello receiving the opening kickoff and beginning their first drive at the 35 yard line.
Monticello went just two yards on two runs and one incomplete pass to open the game. A booming punt by JD McDonald pinned the Rebels deep in their territory on the 11 yard line.
Then the Buck defense went to work forcing the Rebels into a fourth and one. A quarterback sneak by the Rebels was enough for a first down, and after three more plays the Rebels again ran a sneak on fourth down.
They earned enough yardage for the first down but fumbled the ball. It was promptly recovered by Javlin Robison at the 35 yard line.
The Monticello offense returned the favor two plays later when a McDonald fumble was recovered by the Rebels at the Rich 20.
The Rich offense was again stifled by the Buckaroos, who pushed the Rebels back five yards and forced a short punt. That set MHS up with very good field position at the Rich 27.
The Buckaroos responded with a seven-play touchdown drive. The longest plays on the drive were seven-yard runs by Robison and Tavon Black. Black also scored on a one-yard dive to give Monticello the first points of the game.
McDonald kicked the extra point to increase the Monticello lead to 7-0 with to minutes to go in the first quarter.
A short kick by the Buckaroos gave the Rebels possession at midfield. After Monticello held Rich to two yards on two attempts, a third-down pass to Levi Stonehouse was completed for a 51-yard touchdown.
Rich lined up in an apparent kick formation for the PAT, but faked it and Trey Walker ran the ball into the end zone to give the Rebels an 8-7 lead with 35 seconds left in the quarter.
The Buckaroos quickly crossed midfield on their next possession, but a second-down pass attempt at the 27-yard line by McDonald was slowed by a stiff wind and intercepted on the sideline at the four-yard line by the Rebels.
Rich picked up 18 yards on seven plays before Monticello forced a punt to set up the Buckaroos at the 37.
The ensuing Monticello possession included a 17-yard pass from McDonald to Easton Young. But a loss on a run, an incomplete pass, and a sack forced the Bucks to punt after gaining just ten yards on six plays.
The Rebels again scored on a three-play 64-yard drive, with Max Parry breaking a tackle on a 55-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-7 with 3:30 to go in the first half.
The Rebels attempted a two-point conversion, but Buckaroo Tug Davis made a tackle to thwart that effort.
Monticello responded with a sustained eight-play 50-yard drive, all on the ground. Robert Morrison had the biggest gain on a 15-yard run, but Robison gained 23 yards on five attempts, including a six-yard touchdown run to pull Monticello within one point.
The Buckaroos attempted to retake the lead with a two-point try on a jet-sweep by Young, but he was stopped just short of the goal and the score remained 14-13 with 52 seconds left in the half.
The Rebels picked up 25 yards on a four-play drive, but were unable to score as the buzzer ended the first half with a 14-13 Rich lead.
The Rebels opened the second half with a 25-yard completion to enter Buckaroo territory. The Monticello defense stiffened, forcing the Rebels to punt after a third-down sack by Zac Thayn, giving the Buckaroos the ball at their own 17.
Monticello ran two plays for short gains before facing a third and seven. A tipped ball thrown into a stiff wind by McDonald was intercepted by Jaden Desch and returned 43 yards for a Rich touchdown.
The ensuing two-point attempt was a pivotal point in the game. If the Rebels gained the two yards needed, the Buckaroos would trail the Rebels by two scores.
An option pitch to Rich became a footrace to the corner of the endzone, with Young winning and tackling Trey Walker just shy of the goal line. The play kept the Bucks within one touchdown with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
On the following series, Monticello gained 20 yards on six plays before punting to the Rich 24 yard line.
The Rebels gained 15 yards on six plays before punting to the Monticello 35.
Then, with one minute to go in the third quarter, the Buckaroos put together a sustained 39-yard 16-play drive. On third down at the Rich 23, McDonald scrambled for a first down to the 12. But a penalty on the Bucks marched them back to the 32 where two incomplete passes ended the drive with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Rich took the ball at their own 32 with an opportunity to extend their lead and bleed the clock. But on second down, Thayn and Robison hit the quarterback as he attempted a last-second pitch on an option play.
Landon Ewart swooped in and intercepted the pitch to give Monticello another short field late in the game.
McDonald opened the Bucks’ drive with a 15-yard run to the 17, putting Monticello in the Rich red zone.
On the following play, Monticello was called for a hold, moving the ball back to the 30 for a first-and-23 situation. 
On the next play, McDonald found Young with a 16-yard pass to the 14. On second down, Robison put together a crafty 13-yard run to the Rich one, resulting in first and goal.
The following play was a quarterback sneak up the middle by McDonald into the end zone to pull the Bucks to within one, 20-19.
Monticello faced the choice to try for one and tie the score or try for two and take the lead. They opted to go for two points and the lead.
Monticello came out in a swing-gate formation for the first time all season, a formation that Dove Creek had used successfully against the Bucks earlier in the year.
Five Buckaroos lined up at the left hash mark with McDonald snapping to Young in the middle of the field with Ewart nearby as a receiver.
Young took the snap and beat two Rich defenders to the pylon, scoring the two-point conversion and giving Monticello a 21-20 lead.
The Buckaroos could taste the possibility they might make a trip to the state championship game, but there was still 4:40 to go in their semifinal matchup with Rich.
The Rebels took over at the 41 yard line, gaining seven yards on their first play before fumbling on their second play. Thayn recovered the fumble.
On the following play the Bucks lost the ball to give Rich another shot at the 50 yard line with 3:50 to go.
On first down, Robison and Thayn combined for a two-yard tackle for loss. On second down, McDonald broke up a Rich pass attempt.
On third down, the Rebels fumbled the snap but recovered, forcing fourth down. They would need to gain 14 yards to keep their hopes alive.
On fourth down, Davis broke into the backfield to sack the Rich quarterback and give Monticello the ball at the 30 yard line with 2:53 to go.
Rich had only one timeout remaining, so the Bucks needed one first down to put the game away.
After losing a yard on first down, McDonald ran the ball up the middle for two yards before he was hit. But he kept his legs churning and all seven of his teammates on the field pushed the pile an additional 12 yards to give the Bucks that first down and effectively end the game.
The entire eight-player squad pushing for the game-clinching first down was a fitting end to a complete team game. McDonald took the remainder of the snaps and took a knee to secure the victory. 
Monticello finished the game with 250 yards on offense with 194 coming by run and 56 yards through the air.
Monticello ran the ball 50 times, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Robison led the way with 73 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. McDonald gained 41 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.
Young had 40 yards on four carries and Robert Morrison gained 26 yards on eight carries.
Black gained eight yards on four carries, including a touchdown. Thayn added one yard on the ground.
McDonald threw for 56 yards, completing four of 13 attempts including two interceptions. Young had two catches for 36 yards, while Morrison had two catches for 20 yards.
The Monticello defense held Rich to 222 yards of offense, including 133 on the ground and 89 through the air.
The Monticello defense recovered two fumbles and held Rich to just three of 11 third-down conversion attempts. The Rebels did convert two of four fourth down attempts.
Monticello will take on the #1 Gunnison Bulldogs in the state championship game at Eccles Coliseum this Saturday at 7 p.m.
You can watch a non-local broadcast at teamhive.live. The local radio call will be available on 92.7 FM and redrock92.com.

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