Photos by Emma Pendell for CatchMark
Montague’s football team got off on the right foot in its playoff opener Friday night at Reed City.
Adam Baird’s 77-yard touchdown run seconds into the second quarter gave the Wildcats a jolt and an early lead.
Reed City answered moments later and took a lead it would never relinquish, however, in a 41-13 victory over Montague in Division 6 first-round action.
Reed City led 21-13 at halftime and pulled away from there.
“Our defense played tough early and Adam busted the TD. We were feeling really good. It was playing out how I thought it would go. I thought it would be a lot like the Manistee game,” said Montague coach Justin Dennett, referring to the Wildcats’ 24-22 home win two weeks ago.
“Things started to change after the big return they had and score before half, and we fumbled on a drive in the third and couldn’t really come back from that.”
Montague closes the season with a 4-6 record, a tick up from last year’s 3-7 campaign, with seemingly better days ahead.
Reed City (7-3) will host upstart Hart (9-1) in next week’s district championship game. Hart ran away from Kent City, 44-22, for a win in the Pirates’ first-ever playoff game.
Montague senior Adam Baird (Courtney Jimison | CatchMark)
Baird capped his Montague career with a strong stat line, finishing with 118 yards on 20 carries. Sophomore quarterback Mason Darke ran nine times for 79 yards, including a 60-yard TD, and he went 6-of-14 passing for 37 yards.
Defensively, senior Ezekial Morales and sophomore Fletcher Thommen led Montague with 11 tackles apiece. Juniors Ryver Jarka and Talan Degen notched 10 stops each for the Wildcats. Jarka recovered a fumble, while Degen blocked a field goal.
Friday’s win was the sixth straight this season for Reed City, which piled up 419 rushing yards. John Ondrus led the way with 230 yards, followed by Max Hammond with 153.
“They have been running that wing-T for a long time and are really good at it,” Dennett said about the Coyotes. “Our defense came out and played tough, but they made some adjustments and caught us a couple times.”
Friday’s meeting was the third straight between Montague and Reed City on the Coyotes’ field.
Two years ago, Montague won 35-22 in the Division 6 district finals. Last season, Reed City defeated Montague 44-15 in a Division 6 opener.
“Obviously, not happy with a first-round exit again, but we made some small strides from last year,” Dennett said. “This year I was really happy with our seniors matured. Guys like Paul Olson, Joe Winkelman, and Adam Baird were great leaders for us and helped our program take a step forward.”
Several underclassmen started for Montague this season, including a combination of eight sophomores and a freshman at one point or another.
Additionally, Montague’s junior varsity team was unbeaten this season, so it would appear brighter days are ahead.
“Some of the sophomores started both ways, so we were extremely young,” Dennett said. “That gives us a lot of hope for the future, but we know we still have a lot of work to do.
“I’m excited to see these guys get to work this offseason and build on the improvements we made this year.”
Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark
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