Eckerty leads special night for Sages
TUSCOLA — Special teams have special players.
Monticello's Sages have a whole platoon of them. They are the special teams players. Some of them are also on offense. Some play defense.
For many, it's the only opportunity they have to shine.
"We have more depth than we've ever had in the past," Monticello coach Cully Welter said. "A lot of them don't play on offense or defense. We hope they will be a big part of our team this year."
Welter's squad received a significant hand from those on the special teams platoon Friday night in a 49-13 non-divisional win against Tuscola in a battle of state-ranked Okaw Valley Conference teams.
Austin Eckerty, who scored the game's first touchdown for the Sages on a pass from Parker Trice, returned a punt 45 yards to set up a 40-yard second-quarter scoring drive.
Eckerty also returned an interception 28 yards for a TD. Five plays later, Josh Burton raced 30 yards with a kickoff, allowing Monticello to start its fourth scoring possession in Tuscola territory at the 45.
"The interception (return) was a blown route," Tuscola coach Rick Reinhart said. "We called one. They ran another. They did not execute."
One group that did execute, Reinhart said, was the Sages' offensive line.
"They came off the ball well," he said. "Their line was outstanding."
Ryan Donohue, who had a second-half scoring run of 71 yards, rushed for 160 yards the first half. Overall, he gained 256 yards on 22 carries.
"Donohue was good, but No. 23 (fullback Austin McCall) was every bit as good," Reinhart said. "They were more physical. I can't sugarcoat it; our effort was not very good."
The teams collectively scored TDs on the game's first three possessions. Welter said Eckerty's pick and score helped turn the momentum.
"At that point, it looked like both offenses were moving the ball consistently," he said. "For us to get a two-touchdown cushion was huge."
Trice hit 7 of 12 passes for 110 yards. Tuscola's Eli Kauffman was 8 of 19 for 119 yards. Teammate Dan Yoakum had nine stops, Nolan Walsh eight.