When Monett head coach Chad Depee and his staff sat down to map out a strategy to take down top-ranked John Burroughs in Saturday’s Class 3 semifinals, it probably went a little like this.
Have long sustained drives. Force some turnovers. Recognize Bombers’ tailback Ezekiel Elliott was going to get some good runs, but keep them relatively short.
Check. Check. Check and Check.
The Cubs managed to do all that at Burl Fowler Stadium, but still watched John Burroughs walk away with a 28-6 victory and a berth in the state final on Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
“Our game plan was to continue to do what we do,” Depee said. “(John Burroughs) came in here and shut us down when we were knocking on the door.
“They are just a tremendous football team.”
The score doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as John Burroughs (13-0) was able to score three times in the fourth quarter to break open a defense-dominated game.
The real story was the ability of the Bombers defense to come up big whenever the Cubs threatened to put up points.
Monett opened the game with a 19-play drive that ate up 9:15 of the first quarter, only to be turned away at the end zone when John Burroughs safety Peter Schnuck intercepted a Monett pass at the five-yard line.
More of the same followed as the Cubs were inside the Bombers’ 30 yard-line four times in their first five possessions, but all were thwarted by turnovers, sacks or interceptions.
“We bend a little bit, but it seems like we never break,” John Burroughs coach Gus Frerotte said of his defense. “The defense played outstanding today.
“We played a heck of a Monett team, they’re big and physical, and it was a great game.”
Monett’s defense was equally up to the challenge, at least for the first three quarters. While not being able to stop Elliott — an Ohio State University signee – the “Purple Haze” defense certainly made yards hard to come by.
Elliott’s 32-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter was all either team could muster as the Bombers took a 7-0 halftime lead.
“We felt like we had some shots and we didn’t make our own breaks that we needed,” Depee said. “But when you go into halftime, against a team like this, down 7-0, you feel like we were in a good situation.”
Things were similar in the third, but went totally off the tracks in the fourth quarter. Elliott’s second touchdown, a 23-yard run with 8:17 left, made things more daunting but not impossible for the Cubs.
However, on the first play after the touchdown, a high snap led to a fumble that gave John Burroughs a first-and-10 on the Cubs’ 20. Elliott, who finished with 233 yards on 23 carries, scored from the nine four plays later. The Bombers added a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nick Duncan to Foye Oluokun with 3:19 left.
Monett (10-4) — which saw its six-game win streak snapped — scored on a 9-yard run by Aaron Hall with 42 seconds left.
“We all left it out there,” Hall said. “We stuck together and scoring that last touchdown there, that kind of says a lot about us right there.
“They are a good ballclub and we couldn’t really put anything together.”