Monroe edges Commanders, 36-35

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Blocked field goal in final minute ends Washington County’s season at 9-2

By Jimmie Earls



Whenever you play with conviction, believing that you are invincible, that opens you up to pain and heartbreak. You leave yourself vulnerable in an all-or-nothing effort to inspire your teammates and, win or lose, play with the heart of a champion.

It was heartbreak in the heartland Friday night as the Washington County Commanders lost 36-35 to the Monroe County Falcons in the first round of Class AA playoffs in Springfield.
Monroe received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out on its first possession. A Falcon punt gave WC the ball at its own 48-yard line. On second-and-three at the Falcons’ 45, WC quarterback Trae Abell connected with Qwan Turner for a 45-yard touchdown reception at the 10:49 mark. The extra point by Seth Mattingly put WC up 7-0 early.
On its next drive, Monroe County was stopped by the Commander defense. WC got the ball, but a fumble recovery during the drive by the Falcons gave them the ball at the WC 22-yard line. A few plays later, the Falcons tied the game at 7-7.
The Commanders started their next drive at their 30 and they took the ball 70 yards as Alex Marshall crossed the goal line with six seconds left in the quarter. The PAT gave WC a 14-7 lead after one quarter of play.
The Falcons struck again in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-all.
WC answered with a TD by Markus Reardon with 7:11 left in the half. The PAT was no good, but the Commanders were up 20-14.
Monroe County took the onside kick at mid-field and scored again to take a one-point lead, 21-20. The next Commander series was stopped when they came up one yard short on fourth-and-seven at Monroe’s 39-yard line. The Falcons took over on downs and put together another productive drive, finding the end zone with 24 seconds left in the half. A two-point conversion gave Monroe County a 29-20 lead at the break.
The second half opened with the Commanders marching down the field aided by an acrobatic catch by Ben Simms, a fumble recovery by Tyler Loving and first-down plays by Connor Riney to get to the Falcon 14-yard line. That set up a TD run by Turner at the 6:32 mark in the third. Mattingly’s PAT made the score 29-27 Monroe County.
Monroe’s next drive was halted by a Simms interception. Washington County used the rest of the quarter to edge its way down the field into the Falcons’ red zone to the seven-yard line.
WC started the fourth quarter at the Monroe seven. The Commanders clawed their way to the two-yard line, where, on third down, Reardon scored to recapture the lead for the Commanders. He also scored the two-point conversion to put WC up 35-29 with 11:18 left in the game.
The Falcons’ next series was unproductive and WC’s drive was stopped on an interception deep in Commander territory. Monroe County capitalized on the turnover by finding the end zone with 4:59 left to play to tie the score at 35-all. The PAT gave Monroe a slim one-point lead.
The Commanders started their next drive at their own 38-yard line. They edged their way into Falcon territory, but penalties pushed them back and they found themselves in a fourth-and-21 situation at Monroe’s 41-yard line.
Again, it was Simms who hauled in an Abell pass on the sideline, dragging his feet to stay in bounds for the first down.
After breaking into Monroe’s red zone, the Commanders got as far as the Falcon seven-yard line and had fourth-and-two.
Trailing 36-35 with one minute left in the game, WC went for the lead on a field goal attempt. The kick was blocked by Monroe County, and the Falcons fell on the loose ball and took over on downs.
The Falcons killed the clock and handed the Commanders a bitter one-point loss.
“You have nothing to hang your head down about. This bunch has a lot of character and you have a lot to be proud of,” WC head football coach Mark Perry told the team following the game. “My heart is broken right now because we should have won that game. I’m proud of you and all of these coaches are proud of you. We’re going to learn from this and make sure this nevers happens again.”
Several players shed tears as the season came to a close. They realized just how close they were to continuing their season, but it slipped from their grasp in the final minute of play.
Abell passed for 284 yards, completing 30 of 39 attempts for three touchdowns and one interception.
Simms led WC through the air with 99 yards on 10 catches with one TD. Riney had seven catches for 69 yards, followed by Reardon’s 55 yards on seven catches with one TD. Turner had three catches for 46 yards and one TD, while Marshall totaled 15 yards on three catches.
On the ground, Turner led WC with 21 carries for 143 yards and one TD. Abell had 39 yards on 10 carries, while Kyle Curtsinger had one run for 17 yards and Reardon had three yards on  one carry.
WC had 486 yards of total offense, 284 through the air and 202 on the ground,
The Commanders were flagged 13 times for a total of 145 yards, while Monroe was penalized four times for 37 yards.
See next week’s issue of The Springfield Sun for a recap of the 2010 Commander football season.