MONTICELLO — A third-quarter deficit against Okaw Valley Black leader Decatur St. Teresa did little to faze Monticello on Friday.
The Sages scored 14 unanswered points to win 22-16 and grab a piece of something they haven’t seen in a long time: a conference championship.
It meant a lot to the players, who stormed the field as time expired. And to coach Cully Welter, who took a moment to collect his thoughts before joining the postgame handshake line.
“It means a lot. It’s a sign of progress for the program and shows how hard all of the kids have worked over the years,” said Welter, who engineered his best team to its best regular season mark (8-1) in his five-year tenure at Monticello.
Monticello’s passing game stalled in the first half so the Sages abandoned the aerial attack — one attempt in the second half — and pounded the St. Teresa defense with Dylan Knisley. The senior running back racked up 126 yards on 25 carries, including gaining multiple first downs on the Sages’ scoring drive that cut the lead to two late in the third on an Andrew Bailey 3-yard touchdown run.
But it was Knisley’s arm that decided Monticello’s fate Friday night.
On fourth and 5 at St. Teresa’s 13-yard line, quarterback Sam Parrish pitched to Knisley, who pulled up and found Ryne Bundy in the end zone to give Monticello the lead with just more than a minute remaining on the clock.
The Bulldogs weren’t fooled on the play, but the Sages came through with one when they needed it the most.
It was a special play for a special moment, Knisley said.
“We had practiced that play all year, so I guess we were saving it for the perfect time,” Knisley said.
Okaw Valley Black
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Monticello 4 1 8 1
St. Teresa 4 1 6 3
Unity 4 1 7 2
Shelbyville 2 3 3 6
Sullivan/OV 1 4 2 7
Clinton 0 5 1 8