To beat a well-coached Montesano football team, one must consistently execute and limit mistakes, neither of which Aberdeen was able to as the Bulldogs rode a 24-point first half to a 38-7 victory on Friday at Stewart Field in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen had flashes of success throughout the contest, but penalties and turnovers proved costly as Monte took advantage by playing a sound overall game.
The Bobcats (1-1 overall) opened the game with a promising drive that advanced into Montesano territory on a 23-yard pass play from quarterback Grady Springer to receiver Adonis Hammonds.
But the drive stalled as the Cats failed to more the ball forward the following four plays, turning the ball over on downs at the Montesano 37.
The Bulldogs (2-0) responded by quickly moving downfield and scoring on a 26-yard run by senior quarterback Jaxson Wilson, needing just four plays to get on the scoreboard.
Aberdeen’s subsequent drive also showed promise as the Bobcats drove to midfield, but back-to-back penalties negated two would-be first-down plays, pushing the Cats back to their own side of the field.
An incompletion followed by an interception by Wilson killed the drive and gave Monte excellent field position at the Aberdeen 44.
The Bulldogs drove inside the Aberdeen 10-yard line, but had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Felix Romero as the Bobcats defense held firm.
After the Cats went three-and-out on their next drive, Monte struck quickly when Wilson rolled to his right and let loose a deep throw downfield. Bulldogs receiver Mason Rasmussen had a step on the Cats defense and hauled in the pass for a 59-yard touchdown catch and a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Aberdeen’s next drive once again looked promising as the Bobcats moved the ball toward midfield, but a holding penalty negated a Springer first-down run. Springer was sacked by Monte linebacker Peyton Damasiewicz on the following play and Aberdeen was forced to punt.
Monte took the ball and drove to its own 40, but a bad snap sailed over Wilson’s head back to the 20. On a long third-down play, Aberdeen appeared to have stopped Monte short and force a punt, but offsetting holding penalties gave the Bulldogs another play, and they took advantage.
Wilson hit Rasmussen with a strike in the seam and the junior receiver did the rest, outrunning the Bobcats defense for a backbreaking 80-yard touchdown catch and a 24-0 lead.
With just over five minutes left in the first half and needing points to stay in the game, Aberdeen finally put a full drive together, charging to the Monte 26 on four plays highlighted by an 18-yard run from senior running back Aidan Watkins.
Aberdeen cashed in when Springer hit Hammonds for a 27-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch to trim the deficit to 24-7 with just under three minutes to go in the first half.
Monte’s next drive stalled at its own 39 followed by a Bobcats drive ending when Wilson intercepted Springer for the second time in the half.
A Monte missed field-goal attempt with just 19 seconds on the clock kept the score at 24-7 at the break.
“We had negative yards rushing in the second quarter, so we did try to attack the perimeter more and get the ball out into space,” Monte head coach Terry Jensen said of the first-half game plan. “We tried to let some of our athletes, hopefully, make some plays.”
Aberdeen opened the second half with an onside kick that nearly worked, but Monte retained possession.
The Bulldogs drove 57 yards in 11 plays as Monte came out of the half looking to control the clock with a hard-running, physical style of play.
Senior running back Gabe Bodwell put Monte up 31-7 with a 1-yard plunge across the line with 8:13 on the clock in the third quarter.
A muffed punt attempt ended Aberdeen’s next drive and gave Monte the ball at the Cats’ 19-yard line, but just two plays later Aberdeen regained possession when junior defensive lineman Andres Arias picked up a fumble and returned it to the Cats’ 27.
Aberdeen faced a 4th-and-short on its next drive, but a false-start penalty pushed the Bobcats back, forcing a punt.
Using its run-pass-option offense with an emphasis on the run, Monte drove to the Aberdeen 26 on its next drive, but turned the ball over on Romero’s second missed field-goal attempt of the game, this time from 42 yards out.
On Aberdeen’s next play from scrimmage, Springer was sacked and fumbled. Romero recovered the loose ball as Monte took possession.
After Aberdeen’s defense held the Bulldogs on the next drive, the Cats offense turned the ball over again when Springer was intercepted by junior linebacker Gaby Pyhala.
Monte put the game to bed when Bodwell capped off an eight-play, 33-yard drive with a 2-yard plunge with just over three minutes left in the game.
Aberdeen drove 68 yards in nine plays to enter the Monte red zone, but time ran out on the Cats as the Bulldogs won 38-7.
“That’s a good football team over there and we never felt comfortable with the score until the last touchdown,” Jensen said. “I felt like they could strike at any time and (Watkins), he can play. He was a load tonight.”
Aberdeen turned the ball over four times and committed eight penalties for 80 yards, often in key situations.
“We ran out of toes. We shot all of them off,” Bobcats head coach Todd Bridge said. “When you’re playing Montesano, you can’t make mistakes. They will exploit them. If you have a coverage breakdown or anything like that, they’ll pick it apart.”
Montesano had 403 yards of offense – 249 through the air from Wilson – his favorite target being Rasmussen, who had a breakout game with seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson also had two interceptions from his safety spot for a Monte defense that held Aberdeen to 266 yards of offense. The Bulldogs defense held Aberdeen’s rushing offense – and that big offensive line – to 96 yards on the ground.
“We created some turnovers tonight. … I just think our defense was very opportunistic,” Jensen said. “Against that quality of opponent, against that offensive line, I thought our defense was outstanding. They were kind of the catalyst. They got us going.”
“They are well coached and are a greased, awesome football machine. Hopefully, someday we can get to that level here,” Bridge said of the Bulldogs. “Our kids pounded hard. They never gave up. … We played hard. They gave everything they got and didn’t roll over.”
Montesano will play at Columbia-White Salmon at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Aberdeen opens up 2A Evergreen Conference play against Centralia at 7 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium in Centralia.
Montesano 10 14 7 7 – 38
Aberdeen 0 7 0 0 – 7
M – Wilson 26 run (Romero kick), 8:05
M – Romero 22 field goal, 2:11
M – Rasmussen 59 pass from Wilson (Romero kick), 11:51
M – Rasmussen 80 pass from Wilson (Romero kick), 5:24
A – Hammonds 27 pass from Springer (Sanchez kick), 2:55
M – Bodwell 1 run (Romero kick), 8:13
M – Bodwell 2 run (Romero kick), 3:08
Leading passers: Montesano – Wilson 11-20-0-249. Aberdeen – Springer 9-18-3-170.
Leading rushers: Montesano – Bodwell 16-61, Wilson 15-54, Pyhala 2-27, Eaton 5-14, Poler 4-6. Aberdeen – Watkins 15-84, Schroeder 6-40, Springer 7-24, Hale 1-22.
Leading receivers: Montesano – Rasmussen 7-184, Poler 3-44, Johansen 1-21. Aberdeen – Hammonds 3-63, Schroeder 2-62, Watkins 2-5, Walsh 1-12, Hale 1-28.