Monticello hitting on all cylinders in playoff run

Monticello hitting on all cylinders in playoff run

MONTICELLO — The number of playmakers Monticello football coach Cully Welter has at his disposal isn't lacking.

Senior quarterback Braden Snyder leads the area with 2,424 passing yards to go along with 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

Fellow seniors Asher Bradd and Devin Graham are the Sages' top two receivers. Graham has 39 receptions for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Bradd isn't far behind with 46 catches for 757 yards and seven TDs.

Senior Alek Bundy is a threat in the pass game (25 receptions for 372 yards, seven touchdowns), run game (761 rushing yards on 85 carries, 11 TDs) and on defense (seven interceptions).

And sophomore Chris Brown can break one any time he touches the ball, evident by his 549 rushing yards and four TDs on just 57 carries.

"Hopefully it just makes us harder to defend," Welter said ahead of Saturday's 2 p.m. kickoff at Greenville in a Class 3A state quarterfinal game. "What I like about all of our skills guys is they understand from week to week, they could be the guy. Even if they're not, they still contribute. What I've been real happy with is how hard they've blocked for each other. That's been a big key to our success."

Success is all this current group of Sages have known. The senior class sports a 42-5 record in football since entering high school. If Monticello (11-0) knocks off the host Comets (8-3) on Saturday, it'll mark the second trip to the state semifinals in the last three seasons.

They'll face an unfamiliar foe, though, in Greenville that is playing well at the right time. The 13th-seeded Comets upset Farmington 28-14 on the road in the first round before winning 26-14 at Pleasant Plains last Saturday.

"They have a little bit different style than we've seen the last few weeks," Welter said. "They're more 50-50 in the pass and the run, and they've got some talented receivers."

This is Monticello's first road playoff game this season after the Sages opened up with a 50-7 first-round win against St. Joseph-Ogden on Oct. 27 and then followed up with a 49-14 win last Saturday against Anna-Jonesboro.

Welter doesn't mind making the two-hour trip south with a spot in the state semifinals on the line. If Monticello wins, they'd face either Carlinville (11-0) or Williamsville (10-1), with the winner advancing to the state title game at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 23.

"We like being home, of course, and we love the community support, but going someplace new is always interesting," Welter said. "That's what makes the playoffs fun."

Fun is how the Sages played in the second half of their win against Anna-Jonesboro. Only leading 21-14 at halftime, Monticello used a strong third quarter to pull away for a convincing win. It's a theme all season long for the Sages, who have won every game by at least 28 points.

The dynamic offense Monticello has is complemented well by a stingy, opportunistic defense. Playmakers are easy to find, too, on that side of the ball.

Case in point: junior Nic Tackels. Monticello's backup quarterback was thrust into starting duty at linebacker after stalwart Cole Reedy tore his ACL against SJ-O. How did Tackels respond? With a game-high 18 tackles against Anna-Jonesboro.

Fellow linebacker Jack Spence, defensive end Riley Austin and others are key pieces Monticello counts on for production. And they usually deliver, limiting SJ-O and Anna-Jonesboro to only three touchdowns despite those two opponents combining for 131 offensive plays the last two games.

Monticello, meanwhile, has only had 76 offensive snaps in its two playoff games, thanks in large part to its big-play capabilities.

"If we're going to score on one play, we score on one play, and we deal with it from a defensive perspective," Welter said. "I'm never going to complain if that happens, and the thing we've done well with is keeping our composure and making sure we don't play like we're in a hurry. It's all worked out well for us so far."