Locos & Bombers Initial TAAC Tilt Is An Instant Classic

MONTPELIER – Although the two schools are separated by a mere 10 miles, their previous participation in different conferences has prevented a fierce rivalry from truly developing when the teams have played in the past. However, with Montpelier’s move this season from the NWOAL to the Toledo Area Athletic Conference (TAAC) in football, that has all changed. This was obviously evident after their October 21st matchup.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Bomber offense took the field for first for time at their own 40 yard line. They players immediately executed Coach Scott Staten’s plan to control the ball and the clock to the letter as Edon combined runs by quarterback Carson Brandt and tailback Payton Pease, as well as four pass completions to three different receivers. The final completion by Brandt was a 30 yard TD strike to Braden Miller. After a failed PAT run by Brandt, the Bombers had run 10 plays covering 60 yards, as well as 6 and half minutes off the scoreboard, and held a 6-0 lead over a heavily favored and stunned Locomotive team.

The Edon defense also rose to the occasion! Starting on their own 24 yard line, Montpelier running back Bryce Cooley gained 2 yards on first down. After Austin Grubb was held to no gain on second down, Brian Merritt broke through the Loco line and dropped quarterback Zac Mason for a 7 yard sack forcing a punt by the home team.

The second offensive series for the Bombers was nearly a carbon copy of the first. This time starting at their 42, Pease got the call on the ground 4 times, and Brandt twice. The quarterback mixed in three more pass completions, the biggest a 27 yard connection with Preston Klingler that gave the Bombers a first down on the Montpelier 2 yard line. Brandt finished off the 10 play, 58 yard drive with a two yard jaunt past the goal line. Although the PAT was again unsuccessful, the Bombers milked another 4 minutes off the clock and built a surprising 12-0 lead!

At that point you could almost have heard a pin drop on the home side of the field as the crowd sat in utter bewilderment. However, that all changed in about 15 seconds. Edon, who often squib kicks, decided to try to build even more momentum by kicking the ball long in an attempt to pin Montpelier deep in their own territory. That strategy backfired miserably as Michael Blake fielded the ball at the Loco 15 yard line and sprinted through the heart of the Bomber kick coverage all the way to pay dirt for an 85 yard kickoff return touchdown!

Suddenly the Locos, as well as their fans, were back in the game and it appeared the “Big Mo” was taking a turn to the Montpelier side. The ensuing kickoff left the Bombers pinned back at their 24 yard line. Brandt gained just two yards on first down, then CJ Roth dropped Brandt for a sack at the Edon 15. Facing a 3rd and 18, the shotgun snap from center sailed over the quarterback’s head into the end zone where Brandt was able to recover the ball just before being swamped for a safety by a Austin Grubb and a host of Locomotives! In less than 2 minutes Edon’s lead was trimmed to 12-9.

After the kick by Edon, and with 9:26 left before halftime, Montpelier had great field position at the Bomber 41. However, in this and their next possession, Montpelier was unable to convert on fourth down thus surrendering the ball back to the Bombers. Edon fared no better as their next two drives ended on interceptions by Blake and Evan Friend. Halftime arrived with the score still 12-9 in favor of the underdog Bombers.

Edon dominated the first half in both time of possession and yards gained. The host Locomotives only ran 21 plays for a net of 44 yards. Although the Bombers led at halftime, they too had squandered opportunities. After the first two scoring drives, Edon was unable to move the ball past their own 25 yard line, and Brandt suffered two interceptions.

The third stanza revealed little offense by either team, but instead several penalties and turnovers. In fact, midway through the quarter Loco Head Coach, Steven Brancheau, attempted to spark his squad by inserting Dakota Benner into the game at quarterback. Benner had little chance to get comfortable as he faced a 3rd down and 25 yards to go on just his second play. The sophomore tossed and aerial intended for Blake. However, Klingler picked off the attempt. Nevertheless, Edon was unable to capitalize on their excellent field position and turned the ball over on downs at the Montpelier 29 yard line after Caleb Haines broke up a Brandt pass intended for Klingler.

With 3:22 remaining in the quarter, Montpelier reverted back to their staple, “Smash Mouth Football”. The Locos promptly marched down the field on six carries from Cooley and a pair by Grubb. A huge boost for Montpelier came near the end of the quarter. On a 4th down and 3 from the Edon 38, an offsides penalty was whistled on the Bombers. Grubb gained 16 on the next play after the infraction, and Cooley ended the drive with a 16 yard TD run. Cooley added the PAT boot and Montpelier led for 16-12, with 11:41 left in the game.

Trailing for the first time, Edon took over at their own 45 yard line. Brandt hit Klingler for 7 yards, but that gain was essentially negated on a 2nd down false start. Brandt found Pease for 7 more, then ran three yards for a 1st down. However, the drive ended when a delay of game penalty on the Bombers was followed by an interception by Kolden Uribes.

Looking to finally take charge of the contest, the Montpelier offense began at the Bomber 46 yard line. Cooley carried the ball four times in a row to move the ball to the Edon 10. It appeared that Montpelier was irrevocably putting the game out of reach when Grubb ran the final 10 yards for a touchdown. However, upon further review a yellow hankie, and ensuing holding penalty, negated the score. The next two plays the Locos appeared out of sync which led to Benner losing 6 yards. When his fourth down pass to the end zone intended for Blake was broken up Klingler and Siebenaler, the Bombers took over at their 25 yard line with 6:01 remaining.

A five yard run by Pease was sandwiched between two incomplete passes, forcing Edon to punt the ball back to Montpelier. With the ball on their 43 yard line, Cooley carried three in a row for 12 yards, but on the ensuing first down, Grubb was unable to handle a pitch and Hunter Dennis recovered the ball for Edon at the Montpelier 47.

With 3:18 left in the contest, Brandt found Miller for 6 yards. Then momentum took a huge swing in the opposite direction when Brandt hit Siebenaler behind the Loco defense for a 41 yard scoring strike! The two point pass from Brandt was good to Siebenaler as well and in just two plays and 36 seconds, Edon was back on top 20-16.

Another squib kick left Montpelier with the ball at their 43 yard line with 2:37 on the clock and two time outs. Cooley continued to dominate the fourth quarter as he carried the ball five times gaining 10, 35, 6, 2, and 4 yards respectively. Now with the ball at the 1 yard line, and to no one’s surprise, Cooley had his number called again and he delivered a 1 yard TD blast! His kick was true as well and once again Montpelier was up 23-20 with just 34 ticks left.

As they had been the entire contest, Edon once again rose to the occasion. Starting at their 30 yard line, with two timeouts, and 26 seconds, Brandt calmly connected with Klingler for a 13 yard gain. Now at their 43, Coach Staten called for his first timeout. As play resumed, Brandt rolled right to throw, but slipped and fell before he could release the ball consequently losing five yards. With 12.6 seconds on the scoreboard, and the clock ticking, the Bombers were forced to burn their final timeout. Now with no stoppages in play remaining and 59 yards to go, Edon had their backs firmly against the wall. Again Brandt dropped back and threw one up for grabs down the middle. The ball was tipped by a Loco defender, then miraculously caught by Kllingler once again, advancing the ball to the Montpelier 30 yard line. With just 3.9 seconds, and no timeouts left, Edon had to hurry before the chains we set and the clock started. Having no choice but to quickly spike the snap, Brandt slammed the ball to the ground after receiving it from center. However, the officials conferred and decided the clock had expired thus putting a close to the amazing contest that resulted in a 23-20 hard fought survival win for Montpelier. The game can also be considered an “Instant Classic” and leave a lot to look forward to in years to come if this is what the first official league matchup offered to all involved and in attendance.

At the games conclusion Loco leader Brancheau applauded the effort of all involved. “Edon brought everything they had. Hats off to their players and coaches. There was a lot of hard hitting. What a great, tough game!” He had high praise for his squad as well. “We turned the game around in the second half by playing responsibly on defense and cleaning up assignments on offense. We didn’t panic!” Brancheau made special note of the play of Bryce Cooley. “What a great kid! We have two great backs in Bryce and Austin (Grubb). Bryce spent hours upon hours in the weight room, a lot of early mornings, and it shows in nights like tonight.”

Looking towards next week and the season finale with Northwood Brancheau shared, “We’ve been talking about a league championship and beyond. We are focused and played with a lot of heart tonight. We are going to carry that over into next Friday and get ready for Northwood.”

The heart stopping win leaves Montpelier at 7-2 overall, and 5-0 in the TAAC. With the victory they also secured at least a share of the TAAC title, their first football conference championship since 1983. A Montpelier triumph over Northwood at home on Friday, October 28th, would insure the Locomotives an outright title in their first season in the TAAC. Edon now stands at 3-6 overall, and 3-3 in the TAAC. The Bombers conclude their season as they make the long trip to Mohawk High School which is south of Tiffin. Both games are set to kick off at 7 pm.

Kent Hutchison can be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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