On Friday, Sept. 17, Monticello traveled to St. Francis for their first conference game. It was a tough start for the away team, but a score late in the first half gave Monticello much needed life before their big second half.
With under a minute left in the first half and trailing 21-0, Anthony Staryszak connected with Wyatt Sawatzke for a touchdown and Monticello had life. It was part of a 30-0 scoring run for the Magic that propelled them to victory.
The defense tightened up in the second half and the game flipped.
Trailing 12-6 entering the third quarter Monticello got down to business. They got the ball to begin the half and they marched right down the field for a touchdown. They didn’t have to go far because running back Michael Schilling returned the kickoff all the way to the St. Francis 35 yard line. Staryszak finished the drive with his first of two rushing touchdowns and after they converted their two point attempt the deficit was cut to just seven.
Needing one more big play to really get back into it, Carson Kolles answered the bell. He came up with a leaping interception and Monti began the drive in Fighting Saints territory.
A penalty pushed the Magic back to a third and 16, but Staryszak connected with Luke Emmerich for a huge gain, good for a first down. Austin Marquette ran the Magic right to the goal line, where Starysak finished the drive off with his second rushing score of the game. He called his own number again for the two point conversion and the 21-0 deficit officially turned into a one point lead.
After forcing a punt, Monticello took over deep in their own territory on the six yard line. Needing to travel 96 yards, the Magic did just that. The drive started with 11:01 left in the fourth and ended with a 34 yard touchdown scamper by Marquette leaving 4:34 on the clock. Staryszak converted another two point conversion and held a 30-21 lead late.
The two score lead was huge. The Fighting Saints scored a rushing touchdown with 2:10 left and trailed 30-28.
St. Francis recovered the ensuing kick and took over with a chance to win the game. Starting the drive on the Monticello 41, the Magic got called for defensive pass interference and the ball was placed at the 27 with 58 seconds left.
The defensive line swatted the next pass to the ground. Zebras giveth and zebras taketh away as an offensive holding call took St. Francis backwards to the 38 yard line on the next play.
A 16 yard pass and a two yard run later and St. Francis was staring at a fourth and three at the 20 yard line. They lined up for a kick but Magic head coach Pierskalla called a timeout to ice the kicker.
The kick was no good and Monticello escaped with a 30-28 win after trailing 21-0.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Pierskalla said after the game. “I challenged them at halftime. If you guys believe in it and fully go at it, good things are going to happen. I told them in our postgame, I told ya! What a performance by our guys. It was just incredible and the resiliency they showed against a great St. Francis team. It was fun,” he added.
Staryszak completed 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown adding 23 yards on the ground and two scores. Marquette carried the rock 17 times for 130 yards and a score. Sawatzke finished with three grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown. Kolles recorded three catches for 39 yards and came up with an interception on defense. Matt Koshiol had a sack.
When Kolles was asked about their big homecoming game this week against St. Cloud Tech, the answer was short and sweet, “we’re gonna win.”
Monticello (2-1, 1-0) hosts St. Cloud Tech (0-4, 0-2) for their homecoming game Friday.