METAMORA – As is often the case towards the end of the season for the visiting team, the Montpelier Locomotives found themselves as the opponent for Evergreen’s Senior Night contest. The Locos had high aspirations of spoiling the fond memories for the Evergreen class of 2013. Despite a valiant effort, in the end the boys in blue were unable to overcome big plays and costly turnovers as they were defeated by the hosts 35-21.
After receiving the kickoff the Locomotives, behind the trio of Tyler Benner, Colin Mercer and Dallas Royer, methodically marched down the field. The drive culminated with Benner sprinting the final four yards to pay dirt virtually untouched. The extra point attempt by Cody Caudill failed giving the Locos a 6-0 lead over the home team. However, Evergreen wasted little time in answering and after converting the extra point kick the Vikings were on top 7-6.
Montpelier’s early success on offense was short lived as in the next possession the Locos went three and out and Dan Hand’s punt sailed out of bounds after traveling 22 yards to the Evergreen 45 yard line. It was now time for the defense to infuse life into the Locos. They did just that stuffing the Vikings and on third down recovered a fumble on the Evergreen 42 yard line.
The Loco offense went back to work grinding out yards on the ground. Mercer carried two successive plays for 11 yards and a first down. It was now Benner’s turn and he exploded for a 23 yard gain moving the ball to the Evergreen 8 yard line. Unfortunately for Montpelier the drive stalled there when faced with a fourth and goal a reverse by Caudill was only able to gain three yards giving the ball back to the Vikings at their 4 yard line.
The first big play of the night that bit the Locos came with 10:32 remaining in the second quarter. Just when it appeared Montpelier had Evergreen running back Mitch Carter hemmed in for a huge loss on third down, he scurried through the teeth of the Loco defense all the way to the end zone for a 64 yard touchdown. The extra point kick sailed through the uprights giving the home squad a 14-6 advantage.
In their subsequent possessions both the Locos and Vikings defenses took center stage forcing both offenses into punting after just three downs each. The Evergreen punt gave Montpelier the ball at the Viking 47 yard line with 6:37 remaining in the first half. Once again the Loco ground game took over. Mercer picked up eight, then five yards for a first down. Benner picked up eight yards of his own, then Royer pounded the line for a tough one yard gain. Benner moved the sticks again with an 18 yard jaunt moving the ball to the Evergreen 13. Royer gained three, Benner one, and Royer two more leaving the Locos with a fourth and four at the Viking seven yard line. At that point Benner made his first pass completion of the night a big one as he found Caudill wide open in the end zone. The Locomotives decided to go for two and that was exactly what they got when Benner called his own number and burst through the Viking defense.
With just 2:32 left in the half Evergreen went back on the offensive. Following a series of trick plays, which did not fool the Montpelier defense in any way, shape or form, the two teams headed out of the steady rain and into the locker room deadlocked at 14.
The damp conditions played a factor once again to begin the second half. The Vikings fumbled the wet ball and the Locomotive offense moved back into action with the ball on the Evergreen 45. They wasted no time in picking up where they left off. Seven consecutive rushing plays distributed between Benner, Mercer and Royer advanced the ball to the 17 yard line. At that point the Locos switched gears and went to the air on three successive plays. After two incompletions, the third time was indeed the charm as Benner and Caudill connected again for the score. The extra point attempt became five yards longer when Caudill had some difficulty switching into his kicking shoe, but it was no problem as his kick split the uprights giving the Locos a 21-14 advantage with 7:39 left in the third stanza.
Evergreen responded to the score with a drive of their own that ate over four minutes off the clock and covered 59 yards. Montpelier came close to getting the ball back twice on the possession as the Vikings fumbled the ball twice suffering huge losses. However, another big play devastated the Locos as quarterback Matt Taylor turned a 2nd and 22 situation into a 47 yard touchdown run once again tying the game, this time at 21 each.
Montpelier’s offense went back to work at their 31 yard line and to no one’s surprise used the ground game to move the ball. Royer picked up 14 yards for a first down. Benner gained ten more, which quickly became 25 yards when the Vikings were penalized for a horse collar tackle. Another six yards by Benner and four more from Royer advanced the ball to the Evergreen 23. The soggy conditions played a factor again as Benner fumbled, but fortunately pounced on the ball himself. Mercer gained four yards leaving the Locos with a 3rd and 10 from the Viking 23. Benner tried to get the first down and more as he directed a pass in Mercer’s direction. However, the Viking defensive back jumped in line of the attempt picking the aerial off at the Evergreen 12 yard line as the third quarter expired.
To begin the final frame Evergreen mixed in passes and rushes to move the ball to the Montpelier 27 yard line where the decided to go for it on fourth and two. Loco linebacker Jared Sargent promptly put an end to the threat as he dropped Taylor for a 20 yard loss.
With the ball in their possession once again, the Loco offense took over just short of midfield. Unfortunately the series was short and anything but sweet as Benner’s third down pass attempt was intercepted once again and returned to the Montpelier 33 yard line. This time the miscue proved costly as Evergreen moved the ball to the end zone via the ground game and went on top when Carter smashed through the Loco defense from the one yard line. The kick was good making the score 28-21.
Cold, wet, and now behind on the scoreboard the Locos could have called it a night and given up. However, instead of just letting time expire the offense began moving the ball downfield. With the ball resting on their 25, Royer picked up 3 yards. Mercer was stuffed and lost five. Just when it appeared Benner was going to be sacked for a massive loss as he dropped back to pass just the contrary happened. The senior signal caller emerged from the sea of green and gold by cutting, juking and shaking for a 31 yard gain. He picked up 14 more on the next play and had an additional 15 yards added due to a face mask infraction. On Benner’s third straight carry he added five more which turned into an 11 yard pick up due to a Viking personal foul. With first and goal at the Evergreen six, Royer was held to for no gain and Mercer bowled his way to the three. Benner’s rushing attempt resulted in a two yard loss. With just a little over two minutes left in the contest and facing fourth and goal from the five, Coach Steven Brancheau signaled for a time out to plot the Locos strategy. After breaking the huddle, Benner was all alone in the backfield with multiple receivers spread out both sides of the line. Taking the shot gun snap Benner took the quarterback draw breaking a tackle and moving toward the goal line. However, the Vikings wanted senior night to be a happy memory and made it reality as a host of defenders tackled Benner at the five. With the ball now turned over to Evergreen, the Montpelier hopes of an upset were all but gone.
If there was any doubt of the outcome, the Vikings put that to rest in a hurry. As 2:09 was left on the clock, Evergreen gained five yards on first down. Content to run the clock out the Vikings stayed on the ground as Taylor ran a quarterback sweep to the left. However as was commonplace all night the speedy QB broke contain and put the dagger in the heart of the Locos as he sprinted right past the Montpelier sideline and stands for a 90 yard touchdown. The score and subsequent extra point provided for the final margin as the scoreboard read, Evergreen 35, Montpelier 21.
Although the goal of a victory was not gained on this night for the Locos, the outcome had to provide some positives to build upon for next week. The team kept fighting back and never gave up despite the miserable weather and long bus ride. Tyler Benner continued his strong showing on the ground as the workhorse passed the thousand yard rushing plateau on the season. Benner gained 164 yards on 25 carries including a four yard TD scamper. Although he went just 2 of 12 passing, and threw two interceptions, Benner made the most of the completions by connecting with Cody Caudill for a pair of touchdowns. Freshman Dallas Royer and senior Colin Mercer also made positive ground gains. Royer toted the pigskin 15 times for 65 yards and Mercer had his number called 10 times gaining 27 yards.
As it has been the Achilles heel of the Locos all season, the big play ultimately led to the demise of the team. Of the five scores Evergreen accumulated on the night, three of them covered 47, 64, and 90 yards in one play. Take those three plays away and the defense yielded just 138 yards.
The Locos will assuredly focus on this in practice in preparation for the season finale and senior night encounter with the Delta Panthers. The two teams come into the game with identical 2-7 overall and 1-6 league records. Both teams will certainly want to conclude the season on a positive note. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 pm at Hobe Krouse Field.