What a difference a week makes.
Last Friday, the Montesano Bulldogs and Aberdeen Bobcats were on opposite ends of the win-loss column, with Aberdeen riding high off a big Myrtle Street Rivalry victory over Hoquiam while Monte struggled to get things right in a loss to Black Hills.
In a case of major role reversal, it was the Bulldogs that limited the mistakes and made the plays while the Bobcats committed errors in Monte’s 29-0 victory on Friday in Montesano.
In a game hyped as a matchup of the two best prep football teams on the Harbor, it was the Bulldogs that struck early and struck often in the first half.
In front of a standing-room only crowd, Monte (1-1 overall) took the opening possession and needed just three plays to grab a lead. Running a hurry-up offense, quarterback Jayden McElravy ran for a 7-yard gain then found receiver Kaleb Ames for a big 43-yard pass play.
McElravy then rolled to his right and found receiver Bode Poler open behind the Aberdeen secondary for a 28-yard touchdown just 55 seconds into the game.
After multiple Aberdeen penalties moved the ball to the half-yard line on the extra point attempt, McElravy snuck it in for an 8-0 lead.
“We came out with a lot of energy and that play, that picked it up,” McElravy said of the opening score. “We came out and made that play and I saw everyone’s eyes light up on the sideline and I knew we had this game. I think that definitely got in (Aberdeen’s) heads a little bit and from that point on, we didn’t stop.”
Later in the first quarter, a bobbled snap by Aberdeen quarterback Kale Goings was eventually stripped by Monte defensive lineman Tyler Johansen for the first of what would be three Aberdeen turnovers in the contest.
Monte extended its lead early in the second quarter when McElravy found Poler on a deep route up the seam for a 55-yard touchdown that put Monte up 15-0 with 11:10 to go in the first half.
The score would remain that way for the next several minutes as defense took over the game and both teams had drives stall in their own end.
With a little more than two minutes left in the half, lightning struck again in the form of another McElravy-Poler connection. McElravy once again rolled out and saw a streaking Poler zip past the Aberdeen secondary. The senior quarterback’s throw was on-target for a 41-yard touchdown and a 22-0 lead the Bulldogs would take into the half.
McElravy would put the icing on the cake late in the fourth when — on a 4th-and-1 play from the Bobcats 32 — McElravy busted through the pile and sprinted toward the goal line, diving into the end zone to put Monte up 29-0 and secure the victory.
McElravy ended the night going 10-for-20 with 207 passing yards and three touchdowns.
McElravy also led Monte on the ground, gaining 62 yards on 11 carries.
Poler caught five passes for 143 yards and three scores.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this proud of a group of kids,” Monte head coach Terry Jensen said. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight, but at the same time we were aggressive, we were physical and we just worked really hard tonight.”
While Monte’s offense made some eye-catching plays, it was its defense that proved to be the difference.
Bulldogs defenders sacked Aberdeen quarterbacks eight times in the game — three in the first half alone by linebacker Gabe Bodwell — and forced three turnovers, including an interception each by Poler and linebacker Ethan Blundred.
“It was just an outstanding defensive performance. (Monte defensive coordinator) Todd Hoiness had a great scheme and our defensive coaches did a great job of coaching our kids up,” said Jensen, who cited the line play of Johansen, Cam Taylor and Mateo Sanchez for leading the defensive charge. “That’s probably the best we played on defense in three or four years.
“Aberdeen is a physical team and they really wore us down. In that second half, we really struggled at moving the ball. … I was just so proud of our defense. … We stumbled occasionally on offense but our defense didn’t waver. They did a great job. Just outstanding defense for us tonight.”
McElravy said defense was a focus for Monte leading into the game after a lackluster performance against Black Hills a week ago.
“Last week, we didn’t play our best. Our defense had over 20 missed tackles against Black Hills and we did not play the way we should have. We came in this week and we focused more on defense at practice,” he said. “We decided to practice our tackling and we came out with a lot more energy. … We weren’t getting hit in the face this time. We were the ones doing the punishing and that really helped us out.”
Aberdeen (1-1) managed just 36 rushing yards in the game as the Bobcats found it difficult to get any offensive rhythm going.
When the Bobcats did manage to string some positive plays together, eight penalties for 58 yards helped to thwart Aberdeen drives and kill any momentum.
Aberdeen head coach Todd Bridge credited the Montesano coaching staff after the game and said he and his staff have to do a better job if they hope to defeat a well-coached Montesano squad.
“What I saw out there was a Montesano coaching staff that outcoached an Aberdeen coaching staff dating back to three or four weeks ago when we first started,” Bridge said. “Their kids were crisp. The final little detail stuff, they made. … We as a coaching staff have got to do a better job and that’s on me, flat out. We have to do a better job of getting our kids prepared because in that first half, we got annihilated. It was lightning-blitz football and we weren’t ready.”
Aberdeen quarterback Kale Goings went 8-for-19 for 90 yards and two interceptions. Goings was helped off the field with an undisclosed injury to his right leg in the second half. He did not return to the game.
Jeremy Sawyer led Aberdeen on the ground with 12 carries for 62 yards.
Aberdeen hosts Centralia in its home opener in a game that will debut the newly-renovated turf at Stewart Field at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Montesano will play host to Columbia-White Salmon, also at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Aberdeen 0 0 0 0 – 0
Montesano 8 14 0 7 — 29
Montesano — Poler 28 pass from McElravy (McElravy run), 11:05
M — Poler 55 pass from McElravy (Romero kick), 11:10
M — Poler 43 pass from McElravy (Romero kick), 2:23
M — McElravy 32 run (Romero kick), 2:51
Aberdeen — Sawyer 12-62, Watkins 2-6, Anderson 4-3, Springer 2-(-10), Goings 12-(-25). Montesano — McElravy 11-62, Blundred 11-24, Bodwell 5-24, Jackson 1-(-5).
Aberdeen — Goings 8-19-2-90, Springer 1-5-0-9. Montesano — McElravy 10-20-0-207.
Aberdeen — Anderson 4-51, Watkins 3-21, Walsh 1-16, Sawyer 1-9. Montesano — Poler 5-143, Ames 2-51, Johansen 2-10.