State football playoff games aren’t supposed to be this one-sided.
But then again, ‘one-sided’ is exactly how the Montesano Bulldogs have handled opponents this season.
Led by a four-touchdown connection between quarterback Trace Ridgway and wide receiver Sam Winter, the Montesano Bulldogs added Meridian to its long list of handily-defeated foes, routing the Trojans 58-14 in a 1A State Tournament first-round game on Saturday in Montesano.
“I was excited how we showed up to play,” said Montesano quarterback Trace Ridgway, who hooked up with receiver Sam Winter for touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ first two plays from scrimmage, staking Monte to an early 14-0 lead. “Scoring on the first play, that energizes the whole team and you have to love it. … When we’re playing with energy, I think we’re really good and when you start off as well as we did, it makes the whole team play better.”
After Montesano defensive lineman Kenny Koonrad sacked Meridian starting quarterback Cam Webster twice on the Trojans’ first drive to force a punt, Ridgway threw a swing pass to Winter, who streaked 52-yards down the sideline to give Monte the early lead.
On Meridian’s second possession of the game, the Monte defense collapsed on Webster again. The Trojans senior quarterback attempted to weave his way through the Bulldogs’ defense, but was caught from behind and suffered an injury to his left leg. He would not return to the game.
After Monte’s defense forced another punt, Ridgway and Winter were at it again. On Monte’s second offensive play of the game, Ridgway rolled to his right and found a wide-open Winter down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown reception.
Monte (11-0 overall) made it a 17-0 game when Jordan King drilled a 21-yard field goal with 1:23 left in the first quarter.
It was exactly the type of start Monte was hoping for.
“It’s always great when you can go up by two touchdowns in the first two plays,” Winter said. “It just gets the whole sideline, and the whole crowd, it just gets their energy up. … I think that played a big role.”
Meridian (4-7) opened the second quarter with its best drive of the game, scoring on a 68-yard pass play from backup quarterback Wesley Kurz to receiver Ethan Silves, cutting Monte’s lead to 17-7 at the 11:48 mark of the quarter.
Monte’s lead would stay at 10 points for the next several minutes until, faced with a 4th-and-goal from the 13-yard line, Monte’s offense reached into its bag of tricks. With Monte kicker Jordan King sidelined with an ankle injury suffered earlier in the quarter, Monte’s offense was called on to convert. Ridgway dropped back to pass and hit receiver Braden Dohrmann on a curl route. Dohrmann then pitched the ball to running back Aydan Darst, who scampered to the pylon for a touchdown on a hook-and-ladder play. Backup kicker Konnor Odekirk hit the point-after to give Monte a 24-7 lead.
Late in the quarter a Trojans muffed punt reception on a fair-catch call gave Monte the ball deep in Meridian territory. The Bulldogs’ offense made Meridian pay when Ridgway hit Winter for a 10-yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 1:18 left in the half.
But Monte wasn’t done.
Dohrmann came up with an interception off a tipped pass, giving the Bulldogs another possession deep in Trojan territory with 35 seconds remaining. A few plays later, Ridgway hit Winter again, this time on a 7-yard touchdown pass, to put Monte up 37-7 with just two seconds left until halftime.
In the third quarter, Monte put the game away on a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Brent Hollatz to go up 44-7.
And as if the capacity crowd in the Monte stands needed any more proof, Ridgway provided further proof as to why he was named co-MVP of the 1A Evergreen League. With less than three minutes left in the third quarter, Ridgway escaped pressure and burst down the far sideline for a 58-yard touchdown run that wowed those in attendance, including his coach.
“I thought it was going to be a 6-yard loss and he turns it into a 58-yard touchdown,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “I thought it was pretty amazing. He’s exceeded all our expectations this year. … He’s probably the best running quarterback we’ve ever had and he just makes good decisions.”
After Dohrmann grabbed his second pick of the night early in the fourth quarter, Aaron Lano completed Monte’s prodigious scoring output with a 1-yard plunge to make it a 58-7 game at the 8:21 mark of the fourth quarter, well after Monte had called off the dogs and gave its starters some well-earned rest.
A late Meridian touchdown run by Trent Martin at the 2:59 mark rounded out the scoring at 58-14.
Aside from the long touchdown allowed in the first half, Monte’s defense held Meridian in check. The Bulldogs allowed 108 passing yards, more than half of those coming on the aforementioned 58-yard touchdown, and 65 rushing yards while recording seven sacks/tackles-for-loss in the contest.
“We just started going quicker. Our coaches said to go quicker and eventually, it would work out,” Koonrad said of Monte’s aggressiveness on defense. “We started believing in each other, which is key for our team, and overall, just went harder.”
“(The defense) has played outstanding all season,” Jensen said of the Bulldogs’ defense. “I thought they came out and did their job and played great. … Everything starts with the defense for us. It sets the tone.”
Ridgway finished the game 8-for-15 passing for 186 yards and four touchdowns and 160 yards rushing with a touchdown.
Winter, Monte’s other co-League MVP, caught five passes for 133 yards and four touchdowns as Monte racked up 415 yards of offense on the evening.
Jensen credited the play of Ridgway, Winter and the league’s defensive MVP, Hollatz, for playing key leadership roles in the victory.
“They’re MVP’s for a reason,” Jensen said. “I thought all three of those guys are really stepping up and taking ownership and it’s really great to see. I can’t be any more pleased that what we were tonight.”
No. 3 Monte will face No. 6 Deer Park, which defeated No. 11 Zillah 22-20 on Friday, in the quarterfinal round at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Jack Rottle Field.
Monte players know the games get tougher as they advance through state, and they’ll stay focused in the round of eight.
“Our coaches always tell us, ‘Stay humble, stay hungry,’” Ridgway said. “We just have to work hard in the film room, work hard in practice and get better as a team.”