BRYAN – Friday, October 24, marked the end of an era for the Montpelier Locomotive Football Program. The date will go on record as the final football game for the Locos in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League. Montpelier has been a charter member of the NWOAL since its inception in 1926. However, a lot has changed over the past 89 years. One of the main reasons for Montpelier’s exit is the inability of the athletic teams to consistently compete with the much larger schools that now make up the league. The decision to depart from the conference was further solidified by the outcome of the final NWOAL game between arch rivals Montpelier and Bryan. Unfortunately over the past several years the heated rivalry has quite honestly lost a lot of its luster. Sadly this year was no different as the host Golden Bears jumped out to an early lead and were never challenged by the outnumbered and injury plagued Locos as Bryan cruised to a 41-7 win; one which could possibly mark the final football contest ever between the two schools.
The Golden Bears won the toss and began the night offensively at their 44 yard line. Just a little over four minutes later the hosts crossed the goal line to lead 7-0.
Montpelier started their first offensive possession deep in Loco territory at the 23 yard line under the direction of quarterback Zac Mason. The sophomore was getting his first start of the season in place of Dylan Snyder, who was unavailable due to concussion like symptoms. Behind the running of Mason, Cody Caudill, Dallas Royer, and Bryce Cooley, Montpelier was able to chew up nearly five minutes off the clock. However, in that time the Locos were only able to advance the ball to their 45 yard line. Snyder’s absence also meant the visitors needed another punter. Max Hulbert was tabbed for the position and booted his first kick 29 yards to the Bryan 30 yard line.
The second drive for Bryan lasted just a little over one minute. This time a long pass from quarterback Brandon Dean landed into the arms of Gavin Saul who was wide open on the sideline in front of the Locos stands and ran unchallenged after the catch. The kick was true again putting Bryan on top 14-0.
Montpelier went three and out on their next two possessions, but the Loco defense held the Golden Bears in check one time as well. The success was brief however as Bryan found the end zone again, this time in less than one minute to take a commanding 21-0 lead with 9:32 left in the first half.
A nice return by Caudill was negated due to a block in the back penalty. Deep in their territory once again, this time at the 14 yard marker, Caudill, Royer, and Cooley were able to run over 3 minutes off the clock. Unfortunately the trio were only able to advance the pigskin to the Loco 35 yard line. Sensing the urgency for something positive to occur on offense, Head Coach Steven Brancheau decided to roll the dice and go for it on fourth and one. However, the Bryan defense rose to the occasion and dropped Caudill for a one yard loss to take over possession at the Montpelier 34, with just over six minutes left in the half.
The time left was more than enough for Bryan to add on to the point total. In fact the Golden Bears needed just a few ticks over two minutes to extend the lead to 28-0.
After a short return by Keaton Byers, Montpelier attempted to put together a drive of their own starting at the 25 yard line. Utilizing a combination of runs by Royer and Caudill, as well as Mason completions to Caudill and Gunner Matson, Montpelier was able to move the ball out to their 45 yard line. However, that was the end of the possession as well as the half, one that saw the Locos never able to advance the ball into Golden Bear territory.
The visitor’s offensive woes continued to start the third quarter. With the ball at the 25 yard line, Royer ran twice for five total yards. When Mason was unable to connect with Caudill, Hulbert was called on once again to boot the ball. This time the punt traveled 33 yards to Bryan’s 37 yard line.
The offensive onslaught continued for the Bears. This time just five plays were necessary to cover the 73 yards. After the kick, the clock went to continuous running as Bryan was up 35-0.
A roughing the kicker penalty on the extra point attempt allowed the Bryan kicker to boot the kickoff into the end zone. With the ball spotted at the Montpelier 20, the offense decided on a different mode of attack – the pass. Mason hit Caudill for six, then Wyatt Beck for ten yards and a first down. Beck lost two on a rushing attempt, then gained four on his next carry. Facing third and eight, Mason fired a strike to Matson. It appeared the ball was caught for another first down. However, a Golden Bear defender knocked the ball loose before Matson completed the catch, forcing another Hulbert boot.
Bryan quickly tacked on another score. However, the PAT snap was errant forcing the Bryan holder to scramble and hurl the ball into the end zone; right into the waiting arms of the Locos Jake Dewire.
With something finally going in the Locos favor, the trend continued when Bryan was flagged for a personal foul during the extra point attempt. Montpelier took full advantage of the Bryan kicker being moved back 15 yards. Royer corralled the kicked and advanced it to the Golden Bears 48 yard line, marking the first time the Locos moved the ball into Bryan territory. Royer lost one on first down, but Mason found Caudill for a gain of four. Mason sent one to Chase Steffes only to see the receiver hit before the ball arrived. The pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Bryan 31. Mason hit Nate McCord for two yards on first down, then connected with Caudill for a twenty yard gain. With first and goal at the Bears nine the ground game took over. Beck gained two, then Royer picked up five and one, setting up a fourth and goal from the Bryan one yard line. Poised to finally end the drought, Coach Brancheau sent Mason in with a play. As the team lined up, Brancheau screamed for a time out just as the ball was snapped. The plea must have been too late as the officials did not stop the play. The result typified the night for the Locos as Royer was stood up just short of the goal line giving possession back to the Bears.
The defense responded by only allowing Bryan to advance the ball to the six yard line forcing a punt. Montpelier took over after a fair catch on the Golden Bear 40, with 4:17 left in the game. With the continuous clock rule still in effect, Montpelier needed to hurry if they had any hopes of avoiding a shutout. Mason quickly hit Beck for a 19 yard gain. Royer then gained seven, but was held for no gain on second down. Mason kept the ball and picked up two leaving Montpelier faced with fourth and one from the Golden Bear 12 yard line. Beck gained six to keep the scoring hopes alive, then sealed the deal when the junior gained the final six for the Locos first score of the night and final NWOAL touchdown. Caudill’s kick split the uprights to make the final score 41-7.
Although the final was not what the Locomotives had hoped for in their final NWOAL contest, there were still positives to draw from the game. For starters the Loco offense did not have a single turnover on the night. Pressed into an unexpected starting role, Mason shook off some early jitters to finish 9-15 passing for 81 yards, including an impressive 6-8 in the second half, and gained six yards on four carries. Wyatt Beck made the most of his opportunity scoring the touchdown in his five runs while gaining 17 yards. In the absence of Snyder, as well as Jordan Birdsall, Royer had his number called 14 times for 27 yards. Caudill had more carries than usual as well getting 10 rushes for 27 yards as well, while Cooley had two carries for 3 yards.
Caudill was the favorite target of Mason with four catches for 34 yards, with Beck hauling in two throws for 29 yards. Matson netted 13 yards in his only grab, while Royer and McCord each had one catch for three and two yards respectively. Hulbert also did a nice job in his role as punter averaging 33.7 yards in his six punts.
With the defeat Montpelier falls to 2-7 on the season and ends the NWOAL schedule with a record of 1-7. The Locos will attempt to end the 2014 campaign on a positive note when they entertain the Raiders of Lakota High School.
Some additional notes on the Bryan-Montpelier series: The two schools first gridiron encounter occurred in 1902. The series record favors the Golden Bears as they have 62 wins, compared to 35 for Montpelier, while the teams have tied 8 times. While no games are scheduled between the two schools in the near future, it is truly hoped that sometime soon that the historic rivalry will be revisited.