Coming into Saturday’s Class 3 semifinal game John Burroughs’ Ezekiel Elliott had one goal in mind.
To get his team back to the dome.
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23 carries and 233 yards later, to go along with three touchdowns, the Ohio State bound running back and his Bomber teammates are headed back to the Edward Jones Dome for the third consecutive season after defeating the Monett Cubs 28-6 at Burl Fowler Stadium.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose a state championship. We’ve been twice but we haven’t finished how we wanted to finish. To come out here and win this game today, giving us an opportunity to go back to the dome and finish our business is great. It feels good,” said Elliott.
But, the final score was in no way indicative how close the game actually was.
The Cubs opened the game with a 19-play drive spanning nearly 10 minutes, setting the tone early that the top ranked Bombers were not going to have anything handed to them.
“They were a very physical, fast team, maybe the most physical team we’ve played this year. They came out and hit very hard and they weren’t just big, they were fast too. Something we haven’t seen this year,” said Elliott.
After two consecutive fourth down conversations for Monett on its opening drive, the third time wasn’t the charm as quarterback Kyle Woods pass was deflected and intercepted by John Burroughs’ Peter Schnuck, ending the Cubs scoring threat deep in Bomber territory.
“We feel like we had some shots that we didn’t convert. We didn’t make our own breaks that we needed,” said Monett coach Chad Depee.
A recurring theme throughout Saturday’s game.
Despite the Cubs offensive shortcomings, the game remained tight well into the second half due to an experienced and talented Monett defense.
Drive-ending sacks by seniors Matt Murphy and Reese Bounous, the ball-hawking ability of Kurran Blamey, as well as a timely fumble recovery by Bounous, along with a host of other great Cub defenders, kept the John Burroughs offense at bay for the first three quarters of the game surrendering just seven points.
However, Monett could never manage to get over the hump offensively before running out of gas in the fourth quarter.
“They’re a tremendous football team. There is a reason why they’re going to the dome three years in a row. They’ve got tremendous athletes; they do a good job flying around the football. Unfortunately we could never get over the hump today and I attribute that to a good Bomber football team,” said Depee.
With just over eight minutes left, Elliott ran in his second score of the game from 22 yards out, trampling a referee in the process, to put the Bombers up 14-0 and put the momentum square behind John Burroughs.
A Monett fumble on the ensuing drive coupled with another spectacular Elliott run at the 6:45 mark, giving the Bombers a 21-point advantage, would essentially end the game and the Cubs season.
Despite the loss, the 2012 Cubs football team left its mark on the school and the community for years to come.
“It’s been a unique ride. It started off this summer when we challenged these seniors to lead this team. They’ve been the glue for us and left their legacy. As we progressed in the playoffs to see the school spirit and the community pull together is nice. High school football is a unique thing and it is a special thing in communities like Monett. We’ve got a group of kids here that have been special to be with and to have an opportunity to play 14 games, something that we’ve never done, and to do the things that they have done for our team, for our community and for our school. These kids stuck together, it hasn’t been a perfect season. They had choices, they could have tanked it or get better and I’m so thankful they chose to believe in us,” said Depee.
Monett finishes the season 10-4. The Cubs will look to replace 15 seniors as they head into the 2013 season.