2021 Fall Preview: Monett Football

By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Four years removed from a Class 3 state championship, Monett football coach Derrek Uhl described the 2020 season as a tough one.

The Cubs suffered four-straight losses and lost to Carl Junction in district play, ending the season with a 3-6 record.

“I would think it was tough for everybody and I’m sure everybody has their own little stories to tell but ours was tough,” Uhl said. “Kids being out for COVID and close contact and things like that. I’m hoping we never have to do that again because it was a rough one.”

Monett graduated seven players who earned All-Conference honors in the Big 8 West, highlighted by linebacker Cole Davis – a unanimous first-team selection – and Dylan Lynch, who was a second team receiver and a first team defensive back and returner.

The Cubs return a handful of starters from an offense that averaged 11.5 points per game, with senior Harrison Merriman anchoring the offensive line after earning second team All-State honors in Class 4 and second team all-conference honors as a guard and defensive tackle. He’s started since he was a freshman and is also a state champion wrestler.

“He really does not leave the field for us,” Uhl said. “He had a big year for us on the defensive line also. As an offensive lineman he’s very physical. That’s the one thing about Harrison, he’s all of 6-4, 285 and he’s a very physical offensive lineman … He’s our leader up front on both sides of the ball.”

Merriman will return as the team’s right guard and he’s joined by juniors Hunter Laning and Alex Misener, who shared time on the line. One will hold down the left guard spot and the other could play tackle or center.

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“The nice thing is we do have some good numbers on the offensive line so some guys will learn multiple positions and we feel like we have some depth there,” Uhl said.

In the backfield, senior Ethan Umfleet returns as a four-year starter. He was an honorable mention Big 8 running back and a second team Big 8 defensive back last season. He rushed for 388 yards last year and averaged 6.6 yards per carry while scoring four rushing touchdowns. Umfleet added 142 yards passing.

“He’s our most explosive football player,” Uhl said. “He’s a big play guy. He started as a wing back or running back for us as a freshman and sophomore, played quarterback as a junior and he got hurt so he missed quite a bit of time his junior season but every game that he started and was healthy for us last year he went over 100 yards rushing. He’s an explosive athlete.”

In Umfleet’s absence, sophomores Marcus Young (112 yards passing) and Daven Madrid (188 yards passing, 105 yards rushing) took over at quarterback. Madrid played the final five games and Uhl said he showed steady improvement and increased confidence as the starter.

Junior Konner Poynter returns as a wingback after rushing for 159 yards and a touchdown – averaging 6.9 yards per carry – and senior Corbin McCully also returns after rushing for 173 yards and a touchdown as a wingback and fullback and averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

“(Konner) is very fast,” Uhl said. “On the track team he’s one of our faster kids. He’s done a real good job in the weight room, put on some weight and he’s an explosive kid that can make big plays if we get him on the outside. (Corbin) played some fullback and will potentially do both again this year. Last year was his first year starting but he’s got great speed, he’s a great blocker and because he plays two positions he’s very important to what we’re doing offensively.”

In addition to Umfleet, the Cubs dealt with several other injuries last fall and a lot of young players saw varsity time like juniors Jordan Thompson and Isaac Ticknor. Uhl said both of those players, who entered the preseason as tackles, will definitely fill a spot. Junior Caleb Hoffman could start at center after earning some playing time on the defensive line as a sophomore, and junior Keller Snodgrass could play guard or tackle.

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The team doesn’t return any starters at receiver, but does return kicker Erik Chavez, a sophomore, who was 6-for-7 on extra points.

Defensively, Monett returns two starters on the line: Merriman, who also played some nose guard and recorded 77 tackles and eight sacks; and defensive end Stuart Weltes, a junior who had 39 tackles and a sack.

“(Merriman) is very physical and causes a lot of problems for offenses and (Weltes) improved each game,” Uhl said. “He’s pretty explosive and he also will probably see some time at fullback for us. He’s quick off the ball.”

Junior Josh Harvey will play a big role up front, Uhl said, and Hoffman, junior Christian Bellville and junior Fernando Hinojosa will also contribute on the line.

McCully (72 tackles, 6 TFL) is a “very physical tackler” and Poynter (17 tackles) brings quickness; they both return at outside linebacker. Madrid returns at inside linebacker as a rare quarterback-linebacker combo. He made 74 tackles and recovered three fumbles last year. Sophomore Diego Baidon started at inside linebacker as a freshman and made 32 tackles; Uhl expects a lot of improvement from him.

Umfleet is a four-year starter at safety and made 37 tackles with an interception last season. He’s been offered by Evangel University to play defense. Junior Jake Hoyt also played safety last year and recorded 19 tackles and an interception.

Young could have a big year at corner after starting a couple games there last season and senior Ty McCully will play at the other corner spot.

“I think we do return a lot of good experience and they were young last year and so now a lot of these guys have at least a year under their belt,” Uhl said. “They’re going to be more familiar with our system. I’m excited about that where we can go a little faster when we start installing things. I felt like some of those sophomores became leaders so we have juniors who have stepped up and we definitely have some good senior leaders.”

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The team’s overall strength heading into the season is its backfield, Uhl said. Defensively, assistant Garrison Earnest will take over as coordinator after serving on staff since Uhl’s first year in 2015.

“And that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “Of course you want to be good up front and we definitely have potential to be good up front but the strength going into it is our backfield. We’re going to be creative to make sure we get Ethan the ball and defensively we go to a new defensive coordinator and he’ll change some things up. Sometimes I think that kids like that sometimes, they buy into that a little bit. He’s going to play to our strengths. We’re pretty fast defensively. We’ve got to do a better job of getting turnovers.”

Monett opens the season by hosting Hollister on Aug. 27. The Cubs won’t play back-to-back home games until hosting Lamar and Springfield Catholic in October. They’ll travel to Carthage with Nevada and Carl Junction for the Aug. 20 jamboree.

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