Flash and crash: Monroe City uses lightning-and-thunder backfield to overrun Macon in CCC battle

Monroe City

Monroe City's Waylon DeGrave, left, and Ceaton Pennewell, right, combined to rush for more than 300 yards in a Clarence Cannon Conference victory over Macon on Friday night in Monroe City, Mo. | Muddy River Sports photo

MONROE CITY, Mo. — Waylon DeGrave and Ceaton Pennewell give the Monroe City football team two entirely different looks in the backfield.

DeGrave, a junior, provides the flash, while Pennewell, a senior, counters as the Panthers’ punisher. Both proved to be hard to stop on Friday night at Lankford Field. DeGrave broke off two long TD runs, while Pennewell bullied his way through the Macon defense for three scores. 

They combined for more than 300 yards on the ground in helping Monroe City, the top-ranked team in Missouri’s Class 1, to a 32-8 victory over previously undefeated Macon.

“I think we contrast each other perfectly,” said Pennewell, who finished with 123 yards on 24 carries. “He’s the speed. He can put down his shoulder sometimes, but he’s a little more shifty. I don’t have that gift. My gift is just running the ball 3 yards at a time with a cloud of dust.”

Monroe City (8-0) scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to guarantee itself a share of the Clarence Cannon Conference championship with a 6-0 league mark. Macon (7-1, 5-1 CCC) gave the Panthers all they could handle in the first half. 

The Panthers jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to their lightning (a 63-yard TD run by DeGrave on the third play from scrimmage) and thunder (a 1-yard Pennewell scoring run) combination. Macon countered early in the second quarter when running back Maurice Magruder bullied his way into the end zone from 18 yards out. The Tigers converted on their two-point conversion pass to make it a 12-8 game with a little more than 10 minutes left in the first half.

The play was costly though as Magruder, Macon’s leading rusher, left the game with a shoulder injury and never returned. Still, the Tigers hung close as Monroe City hurt itself with uncharacteristic mistakes.

The Panthers drove the ball inside the Macon 10-yard line after Magruder’s score, using a dozen plays to chew up more than six minutes of game time. They were unable to capitalize as a handoff from quarterback Reece Buhlig didn’t quite make it to Pennewell. Macon’s Caelan Harland recovered the fumble.

Macon nearly took the lead when quarterback MyKel Linear hit Bryant Carpenter with a 52-yard pass that took the ball into Monroe City territory. Monroe City’s Jaylyn Countryman made a TD-saving tackle on the play. Three plays later, Countryman made an even bigger play as he picked off a Linear pass.

That proved to be the final hurrah for Macon. The Tigers managed just one first down in the second half as Monroe City controlled the game after making some adjustments at halftime.

“We played very sloopy football,” Pennewell said of the Panthers’ first-half effort. “Too many penalties, falling off blocks, not finishing runs out, fumbles. We can’t be doing that if we want to make a long run.”

The Panthers turned to Pennewell, who added a 3-yard scoring run with just over four minutes left in the third quarter for a 20-8 lead. In the fourth quarter, Pennewell continued to grind out yards before finally breaking open for a 29-yard touchdown run for a 26-8 Monroe City lead.

“I figured it was only a matter of time until he broke one loose,” DeGrave said. “He’s always breaking one off eventually.”

DeGrave wound up breaking off another long run of his own. His 51-yard scoring scamper with just over five minutes to play capped the scoring and gave him 184 yards rushing on just 13 attempts.

“We have a lot of special athletes and we know that,” Monroe City coach David Kirby said. “The thing about them is that if they are ganging up on Ceaton, then Waylon is going to have some open holes. If they take Waylon away, then Ceaton will have a game. Give the credit to the offensive line. They just kept working.”

The Panthers wound up piling up more than 450 yards of total offense. They finished with 365 yards rushing and Buhlig completed two of his three passing attempts for an additional 87 yards.

“There is no secret to what we are going to do,” Kirby said. “We are going to line up and try to run the ball. We’re going to try to be real physical at the point of attack and we’re going to try to play real aggressive defense.”

Macon was limited to 204 yards of offense, including just 30 rushing yards. Linear finished 13 for 24 passing for 174 yards.

Monroe City will try to cap an undefeated regular season next Friday when Clark County (4-4, 2-4 CCC) visits Lankford Field. The Indians suffered a 26-13 loss to Brookfield on Friday night.

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