FERGUSON — The Monett football team will advance to its first state championship game since 1977, as the Cubs (13-1) shut out previously undefeated McCluer South Berkeley (13-1), 42-0 in Ferguson on Saturday.
The game was Monett’s third semifinal since 2012, and Head Coach Derrek Uhl said there were no words to fully describe how sweet the victory was for the team and its fans.
“I know what our history in the semifinals is, and I was part of the first one,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. This is just a special group of guys.”
Monett started the game with a bang, recovering a Berkeley fumble at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line on the second play from scrimmage. Michael Branch capitalized on the turnover with a 17-yard touchdown strike only 3 minutes in.
On Monett’s third possession, the Cubs crafted a long drive that included three fourth-and-short conversions. With Branch carrying the majority of the drive, the Bulldogs began to key in on the Cubs’ bell cow, allowing Meyer to fake a handoff and end the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff allowed Branch to score again for a 2-1 lead.
Branch finished the game with 27 carries for 169 yards and 3 rushing scores, plus a 6-yard touchdown reception. Meyer finished with two rushing touchdowns, a passing touchdown and an interception, his first of the year.
Branch said the Cubs’ tempo was the biggest key in the win.
“We had a lot of guys that came in and wanted to win,” Branch said. “We played with full heart. We played our butts off and followed our assignments.”
To put the disparity into perspective, Berkeley did not gain a first down until 10 minutes left in the second quarter, and the Cubs’ only punt of the game came with 5 minutes left in the game and a 42-0 lead.
Berkeley’s only threat came at the end of the first half, but three plays from inside the 5-yard line all fell short of paydirt.
“Berkeley has scored a ton of points this year, so to shut them out was amazing,” Uhl said. “At the end of the second half, if they would have scored, it would not have been a huge deal. But, for us to hold them was a momentum killer.”
Monett will face Maryville in the state title game next Saturday at 11 a.m. at Plaster Stadium on the campus of Missouri State University.
Branch said although the game will be Monett’s first title shot in nearly 40 years, he is not treating it differently.
“It’s just another game,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger but mentally, we’ll treat it just like any other high school football game.”
Monett 42, McCluer South-Berkeley, 0
At Bulldog Stadium, Ferguson
McCluer South-Berkeley 0-0-0-0 – 0
Monett—Michael Branch 1-yard run (Cameron Cody kick)
Monett— Ian Meyer 10-yard run (Cody kick)
Monett—Branch 2-yard run (Cody kick)
Monett—Meyer 1-yard run (kick failed)
Monett—Branch 1-yard run (Alex Turner, 2-point catch)
Monett—Branch 6-yard pass from Meyer (Cody kick)