by Eric Oslund
The Elk River Elks made their way to Monticello on Friday, Sept. 8, to play in the first football game at the Magic’s brand new football stadium. The Monticello football players were hoping to open the stadium with a win, while the Elks were looking to tarnish their hopes.
The Magic received the ball to start the game, and faced a third-and-7 after just two plays. Monticello’s quarterback Ethan Bosacker took the handoff, turned around and ran into his running back. It was a broken play and Elk River’s Patrick Boland took full advantage, sacking Bosacker and forcing Monticello to punt.
The Elks took over at their own 21-yard line after a block in the back. It was tough moving at first, as they faced third-and-4 after their first two plays went no where, but then quarterback Mitch Stroh broke free for 18 yards on a quarterback keeper.
Two minutes later, they faced another third down, though this one was more manageable as it was third-and-1 from Monticello’s 28-yard line. And like their first third-down attempt, they converted when Sherrod Kpahn dove right up the middle and through the lines.
The offense would take full advantage of the new set of downs, as Jon Suchy broke free up the middle for a 27-yard touchdown, which was followed by a successful 2-point conversion by Stroh to give the Elks an 8-0 lead.
The Elks tried for an on-side kick after the score, and recovered it, but the refs called them for touching the ball – maybe a half an inch – too early, so Monticello took over at Elk River’s 49-yard line. After a few plays, the Magic showed their appreciation of the gifted field position by having Bosacker find a man open over the middle of the field for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
However, the Magic would miss their point-after attempt, so the Elks held onto a narrow lead of 8-6.
That’s when this new stadium gave Monticello a little magic – pun intended. Monticello kicked the ball off and the man back receiving for Elk River muffed it. He then ran up, recovered the loose ball and looked to run, but would fumble it again when he got hit. The Magic recovered the fumble and took over at Elk River’s 4-yard line.
It took them a few tries, but they finally broke through Elk River’s defense and into the end zone. Though, a failed 2-point conversion shortened their lead over the Elks to 12-8.
Team 126 started the following drive at their own 20-yard line, not even attempting to bring the ball out this time.
They began to work. Eight yards here, four yards there, picking up first downs and slowly but surely moving down the field. They broke into Magic territory, but then one of their offensive linemen was called for a false start and unnecessary roughness when he jumped and ran over a Monticello defensive lineman, turning a second-and-1 into a second-and-22.
If anything, that added yardage seemed to help the Elks as Suchy would bust off a 47-yard run on the next play of the game to finish off the first quarter of play.
It didn’t take long for the Elks to get things rolling again after switching fields, as Stroh would break free for a 23-yard score just nine seconds into the second quarter to recapture the lead. A score which read 14-12 after a failed 2-point conversion.
Monticello began their next drive on their own 27-yard line and would go on to pick up a pair third down conversions, a third-and-11, and third-and-3. They faced their third third down of the drive and as they looked at third-and-8, their quarterback had a man running wide open down the sidelines, but he over threw him.
Fourth-and-8 from Elk River’s 42 was starring the Magic in the face. They were in no man’s land, too far for a field goal, but too close to punt, so they went for it but could not convert – giving the ball back to the Elks.
They would take full advantage of it, slowly working their way down the length of the field until Egbujor finished the drive off with a 7-yard touchdown run to give the Elks a 20-12 lead after they were unable to connect on the 2-point conversion.
The home team was in need of a big play, and one to happen soon as things appeared to be getting out of hand, and they nearly got it. On the kickoff following the Elk’s touchdown, the Magic’s return man found a seam and it looked as though he was going to be running free for a touchdown. He just had one man to beat, the kicker, but Brock Hildenbrand was able to get enough on the return man to knock him out of bounds, saving a would-be touchdown.
So instead of a score, the Magic began play at their own 43-yard line. They eventually worked their way down to Elk River’s 34-yard line where they were faced with a fourth-and-7 situation with 1:00 remaining in the half. They called a timeout to draw up the play they wanted and then went to work. Bosacker dropped back to pass, spotted his open man, and completed the pass for a fresh set of downs from Elk River’s 11-yard line.
There wan’t much time remaining in the half, though, so the Magic had one final shot. They snapped the ball, and Bosacker once again dropped back to pass. He spotted his man, and let the ball fly right into a pair of eagerly-waiting hands. But instead of completing a pass, this time those hands belonged to Elk River’s Tristan Carlson, who was able to come down with the interception and then return it into Monticello territory to kill of the remainder of the half.
The Elks started the second half with the ball, and continued the pace of play they had been going at all game. Picking up a chunk of yards here, a chunk of yards there, slowly but effectively moving the sticks until a targeting call on Monticello put the Elks at the Magic’s 38-yard line.
They faced a fourth-and-3 three plays later, but Suchy was able to break free for 12 yards and a new set of downs. Team 126 eventually worked themselves into first-and-goal, but they didn’t get in on first down, second down, or third down. They were starring at fourth-and-goal from Monticello’s 1-yard line and tried sending Stroh up the middle, but they Magic once again shut them down, turning the ball over on downs.
Even though the Elks didn’t score on that drive, they still ate up a bunch of clock as just 4:30 remained on the clock in the third quarter when the Magic took over. Also, by pinning their opponent’s so far in their own territory, they really limited what the Magic could do.
Monticello was forced to punt after three plays, giving the Elks the ball back. Normally the team receiving the punt in this situation can expect to get the ball in great field position, but a 56-yard punt and roll put the Elks all the way back at their own 35-yard line with 2:22 remaining in the quarter.
They wouldn’t have the ball long, though, as the Magic forced them to punt the ball away after just four plays.
The fourth quarter started with the Magic facing second down on Elk River’s 39, and that’s when things started to get a little ugly for the home team, and in a hurry. First, Boland broke through Monticello’s offensive line and nearly came away with a sack, but Bosacker was able to get rid of it before he was brought to the ground. The only problem was there were no receivers in the vicinity and it didn’t make it past the line of scrimmage, so he was called for intentional grounding.
The Magic were then called for a false start, which put them in a third-and-27 situation. They were able to complete a pass, but it was nowhere near the first down marker. Then, to make matters worse, Monticello was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the Elks chose to decline that penalty and force the Magic to punt the ball away.
The Elks couldn’t do much with the new set of downs, and punted the ball away. But the Magic couldn’t get anything going on offense either, so the Elks got it right back – taking over on their own 36-yard line with 7:27 remaining in the game.
Stroll was able to break free for 15-yard run thanks to some nice junk moves and a couple stiff arms, bringing his team into Monticello territory. They were facing third-and-3 from the Magic’s 28-yard line and then Egbujor found a seam and broke free for a touchdown. Stroh followed that up by connecting with Carlson for the 2-point conversion to give their team a 28-12 lead.
Monticello would get one more chance at a comeback on their next drive, but came up short once again, dropping their home opener to the Elks 28-12. That win improved the Elks to 2-0 on the season, and dropped the Magic to 0-2.