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With playoff bid on the line, Spartans suffer road loss at Monticello

As head coach Shawn Skinner headed to the locker room Friday after the Spartans' 35-6 loss to Monticello, Glen Fisher, an ardent fan of SJO athletics and retired employee of the district, hoped to comfort head coach Shawn Skinner after Friday's game against Monticello.

"Dick Duval didn't start out that great," he said gently.

Duval, St. Joseph-Ogden's head coach football coach from 1988-2015, had a combined win-loss record of 29-15 his first four years at the helm. Five seasons later, his Spartans were playing 12+ games a seasons, make deep playoff runs for the next half a decade.

That probably didn't make Skinner, who is now 19-19 after Friday night's contest in his first four season, feel much better after the lackluster loss to the Class 3A defending state champions.

The Sages scored five times before the Spartans, courtesy of Jarrett Stevenson, put their only TD on the board in the final quarter of a game that held possible playoff implications depending results from other IHSA member schools.

Xander Rieches plays at tight end
Xander Rieches plays at tight end for the Spartans in their road game against Monticello. Despite the 29-point loss, SJO will play at least one more game this season in the Class 3A playoff bracket. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
"Early on we kind of were doing our job, but we weren't playing hard," Skinner said. "Then, we start playing hard, but weren't doing our job. Either way, that's a bad combination."

And, bad it was. Nothing good went the Spartans' way when they really need it.

Down 21-0 in the second quarter, Chance Izard pulled in a short pass from Crayton Burnett and ran toward the south endzone. Breaking four tackles along the way and sprinting down the east sideline, he put the ball over the goal line 60 or so yards from where he started. The celebration by players and fans was short-lived.

It was deja vu from the Prairie Central game two weeks earlier where every substantial play in SJO's favor was negated with a yellow hankie. And, just as in the road game the Hawks, the ball came back.

"I don't think we matched their intensity right away," said Skinner. "When we tried to react to their intensity, we lost all of our technique. We lost all of our assignments. We were trying to play hard, but we weren't doing our job."

Monticello's offense was fueled and supercharged by tailback Chris Brown. He exploited SJO's weaknesses as skillful as a brain surgeon.

The Sages' junior scored a touchdown in three of the four quarters and churned up 265 yards on 13 carries. The Spartans had a difficult containing him on the outside and his explosive burst caused missed tackles when took the ball between the tackles.

"There were glimmers on defense, but not nearly enough," said Skinner. "I thought Brodie Sullivan (and) Trevon Carr (played well). Drew Coursey continued to play really well. I thought Coby Miller stepped in at middle linebacker in the second half and did some nice things for us."

Trevon Carr wraps up Monticello ball carrier
Trevon Carr wraps up Monticello's quarterback Nick Tackels for a loss in the second half. The loss to the Sages wrapped up SJO's regular season at 5-4. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The Spartans entered the game without senior linebacker Brayden Weaver, who suffered a season-ending injury to a knee in an earlier game. Fellow senior and linebacker Sam Wesley admitted his presence was missed on the field.

"Some people don't know my sophomore year, I didn't play. I only came back my junior year because of Brayden Weaver," Wesley confessed. "It was definitely a big loss. People have stepped up. We got to keep playing."

Though not official until Saturday evening, Wesley was confident of a Class 3A playoff bid for his team.

Luke Renfrew stands up to block Monticello's Cooper Mitze
Luke Renfrew stands up to block Monticello's Cooper Mitze during second half action of the Illini Praire Conference finale. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
"We still have playoffs next week. We just have to come (in) and prepare (for it)," he said, happy that he will have the chance to play one more game. He was confident SJO will rebound from the loss. "We just have look at the film, make some adjustments and we will be alright."

Stevenson led the Spartans' offensive effort with 86 yards and 22 carries. His 9-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play avoided what would have been the second shutout this season.

With Weaver out, SJO enlisted their young guns and called on them to fill the senior's role at fullback. Sophomore Keaton Nolan picked 12 yards, collecting seven of those on his last touch. Meanwhile, Coby Miller chipped in an additional 15 yards.

"We had a good week of preparation and practice. I saw good things," Skinner remarked during his postgame interview from the 50 yard line before passing Fisher. "Yesterday, was one of the best Thursday practices we had this year. It just didn't translate into anything worthwhile."

Drew Coursey was clearly disappointed after the game.

"It's hard to take away any positives right now," he said. He focused more on the Sages' success than on SJO failures during his last regular season game. "Number 8 (Chris Brown) is fast and number 12 (Nic Tackels) is a good player. They played well."

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden   0 0 0 6   6
Monticello 14 7 7 7 35

Scoring by quarters
1st Quarter
MHS - C.Brown 14 yd run (Ellison kick)
MHS - Tackels 15 yd run (Ellison kick)

2nd Quarter
MHS - Kerr 10 yd pass from Tackels (Ellison kick)

3rd Quarter
MHS - C.Brown - 81 yd pass from Tackels (Ellison kick)

4th Quarter
MHS - C.Brown 49 yd run (Ellison kick)
SJO - Stevenson 14 yd run (pass failed)

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