TOLONO – Unity never has missed the football playoffs in Scott Hamilton's first 13 years as head coach.
The Rockets took a giant step toward a 14th straight playoff appearance with Friday's 28-14 Okaw Valley Conference Blue Division win against Monticello.
"This was definitely a big win for us," Hamilton said of the victory that left both teams with 4-3 overall records and 2-1 conference marks. "We think five wins (with games against Clinton and Shelbyville remaining) will be enough, but we'd like to win both games, go in on a roll and make some noise in the playoffs."
Most of the Rocket noise in Friday's win was made by the escapability of junior quarterback Chris Ault and the power running of senior fullback Beau Taylor. Ault ran 46 yards for the first Unity TD after somehow breaking out of a mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage. His 20-yard scramble set up the first of Taylor's two short TD bursts to break a 7-7 tie with 7:53 left in the second quarter. He added a 38-yard pass to Tim Collins for the final Rocket TD.
"It was more luck than anything," Ault said of his scoring run. "I thought I was stopped for a bad play, but I just kept moving my feet and came through it some way. I saw the scramble coming and just wanted to get as much as I could. We had been practicing the touchdown pass all week in practice so it was really fun to have it work."
Ault's run for the first Rocket TD came three plays after the Sages had completed a 70-yard drive with Kyle Dooley's 4-yard plunge. Taylor's 3-yard bolt climaxed a 67-yard drive to give the Rockets a 14-7 halftime lead. His 2-yard dive closed a 64-yard drive that extended the lead to 21-7.
"I've only been starting for four or five games," Taylor said after gaining 162 yards on 34 carries. "I think I'm finally getting the hang of it."
Though the win helped the Rockets in their quest for a playoff berth, it damaged Monticello's hopes considerably. It's likely the Sages will have to close the season with wins against Shelbyville and St. Teresa.
"We stopped ourselves in the first half (two lost fumbles and an interception)," Monticello coach John Beccue said. "You can't have that many turnovers and expect to win. Unity did what they do best in the second half, and just overpowered us."