MONTICELLO — The streak lives on.
Unity’s Justin Deters hit wideout Derek Hooker in stride for a late fourth-quarter touchdown to rally the Rockets past Monticello 18-14 to spoil the Sages’ homecoming.
Trailing 14-12 with just over five minutes remaining in the game, Deters faked the handoff to running back Conner Grace and found a wide-open Hooker down the left sideline for the 27-yard score. The pass was just the seventh attempt (compared to 58 rushing plays) of the game for the junior quarterback.
“I saw the whole play unfold. Our receiver baited it ... our line protected and Justin threw it in a great spot,” Unity coach Scott Hamilton said. “It was great execution and a heck of an effort by a group of kids who things didn’t go very well for in the first half.”
Grace led the Rockets with 148 yards rushing, including a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Deters added 82 yards on 25 carries.
“I was proud of the kids’ effort for hanging in there,” Hamilton said. “It’s one of those games we had a touchdown run called back early ... there were some things that just didn’t go our way, but our kids kept battling.”
Monticello’s Ryan Donohue broke free for a 68-yard touchdown just three plays into the Sages’ first offensive possession. The senior tailback notched 105 yards on 11 touches in the first half, but the Rockets defense limited him to just 2 net yards after the break.
Monticello managed 223 yards of total offense in the game.
The win guaranteed Unity a tie with Shelbyville for the top spot in the Okaw Black division with two games left in the season. Since joining the Okaw in 2007, the Rockets have never lost to Monticello and have defeated the Sages five times in the last three years — beating Monticello in the playoffs the last two.
“I mean, it hurts. If it didn’t hurt then I’d feel like we didn’t care,” Monticello senior Vinny Strack said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world, especially having all the people coming back who have played through this program, watching how close and how hard we battled.
“If we did what we should have done, we could have won that game.”
The loss weighs heavily on Sages coach Cully Welter, who saw this as an opportunity for his team to show how far they’ve come.
“This will be a tough one to overcome,” Welter said. “We were right there, and once again didn’t close the deal. It’s not the end of the season, but it doesn’t feel very good right now.”
“Cully’s done a great job over here and my hat’s off to him and the job that they do,” Hamilton said. “You know, Donohue and those guys, they play so hard and we’re fortunate to get out of here with a win.”