Monroe City pounds ground with dominant running game in earning district victory
MONROE CITY, Mo. — The Monroe City football team needed a fourth-quarter rally to fend off Highland when the teams first met this season.
No comeback was necessary the second time around.
Sophomores Quincy Mayfield and Jayden Holland combined for 244 rushing yards and four touchdowns to enable the Panthers to post a 34-0 victory over the injury-ravaged Cougars on Friday night in the opening round of the Class 2 District 7 playoffs at Lankford Field.
Monroe City, ranked 10th in the latest state poll, improves to 8-2 and advances to the district semifinals next Friday, where it will face undefeated and fifth-ranked Bowling Green. The Bobcats beat Mark Twain 54-6 in their playoff opener.
“I feel good for the win. I think there were a lot of bright spots,” Panthers coach David Kirby said. “And there are definitely some areas where we’ve got to improve and that’s what we’re gonna do this week.
“That’s the thing right now. You have to play real good football if you want to keep going.”
Neither team played particularly well early. They combined for more penalties (12, although two were declined) than points (6) in the opening quarter. For the game, Highland was flagged 16 times for 116 yards and Monroe City eight times for 61 yards.
The only scoring in the first period came on a 6-yard reverse by Dylan Ross with 5:11 remaining to cap a five-play drive that Holland jump-started with a 44-yard run from his own 31.
Mayfield took a backwards pass from quarterback Trey Smyser a minute into the second quarter and scampered 43 yards down the left sideline for another score. Smyser’s two-point conversion pass to Waylon DeGrave made it 14-0.
Then, with less than three minutes to go in the half, Mayfield swept down the right sideline and then cut back all the way across the field for a 51-yard scoring run to make it 20-0.
The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Mayfield finished with 123 yards rushing on just eight carries and caught a pass for 19 yards.
“For being only a sophomore, he plays a lot bigger than his age and he plays a lot bigger than his frame,” Kirby said. “He’s not a monster guy by any means but he’s got great field vision. He sees a cut and commits to it.”
Holland carried the ball six consecutive times after Monroe City recovered a fumble at the Highland 39 midway through the third period, the last a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 26-0.
Holland finished with 121 yards on 17 carries, the last a 1-yard scoring run with 8:16 remaining for the final margin.
Highland, which had as many players on crutches and in street clothes on the sideline as it did available reserves, managed just one first down and 51 yards of total offense in the first half. The Cougars finished with 173 yards, all on the ground.
“We probably had 10 kids out tonight, a lot of them with season-ending injuries, that we had the first time we played,” Highland coach Caleb Arnsman said.
Dual-threat quarterback Brayden Logsdon gave Monroe City fits when the teams met in Week 3, rushing for 91 yards and throwing for another 121. Highland took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter of that contest before losing 30-14.
Logsdon, however, was lost for the season when he tore his meniscus in a Week 5 victory over Macon and the Cougars have scored just six points since. They were outscored 229-6 in their final five games to finish with a 3-7 record after a promising 2-0 start.
To make matters worse, freshman backup quarterback Sawyer Harshberger went down with a concussion two weeks ago, pressing wide receiver Brady Campen into signal-calling duties.
“Losing (Logsdon) definitely changed our offensive identity,” Arnsman said. “He was a dual-threat playmaker. We’ve had to switch up a lot of stuff to fit the personnel we have left. It has been a struggle to put up points, although I thought Brady did a phenomenal job considering the short amount of time he’s been there.
“I thought our defense played well. We just had a couple of mistakes here and there where we didn’t wrap up on tackles. Offensively, every big play came with a penalty against us and set us back. We couldn’t recover from that.”
Highland lost three fumbles and Monroe City two. In addition, Smyser fumbled the snap five times, although he recovered each. The Panthers also completed only one pass in eight attempts for 19 yards to go along with 342 rushing yards.
Kirby knows cleaning up mistakes and cutting down on penalties to be able to sustain drives will be imperative against Bowling Green.
“We’ve got to go back, reflect on what we did wrong and figure out how we can fix it,” he said. “And then we have to get really dialed in because we have a monster coming up next week.”
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