Lee Downs Spartans for South County Supremacy
LEE, Mass. – The first two minutes of the season could not have gone much better for the Monument Mountain football team on Friday night.
The rest of the first half could not have gone much worse.
Lee scored 24 straight points to erase an early deficit and take a 24-6 win on Friday at Consolati Field.
“I would say that we came out really strong, we came out really confident, we came assured of the plays we were going to run,” Spartans coach Chris Tucci said. “And I think the moment got ahead of us.
“We just came off our first conference championship in several years, and success is a heavy crown sometimes. You’ve got to really, really earn it. Lee took it to us tonight. They showed us what a program that has had success does when it faces adversity, and it’s only going to make us better after tonight.”
Tyler Bartini ran for 91 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 42 yards and a score, William Thomson gained 53 yards and a score on the ground, and Matt Petrescu nailed a 30-yard field goal for the Wildcats (1-0).
“Ground and pound, that’s really all we did,” Bartini said. “Winning up in the trenches and, I think we really carried that on through the whole game. That’s the whole difference, I think.
“Then we opened it up. With that bubble action [on the passing TD], we were right there. I was wide open. We were playing for that all night.”
Monument Mountain (0-1) started the night with a quick strike.
After Shaun Frank returned the opening kick 34 yards to midfield, the Spartans needed just three plays to find the end zone on Nick Henderson’s second 28-yard run of the possession.
Lee coach Keith Thomson said the Spartans were able to take advantage of his team trying something new defensively to start the new year.
“We mixed up our defensive front a little bit in the first drive,” Thomson said. “We thought we could get them a little off balance. I thought we were catching. We weren’t as aggressive as we like to be. We were pretty much eight guys in the box, but we weren’t sending a lot of pressures.
“They took it to us. … They came out with a lot of energy and had a great first drive. After that, we got back to what we do well, got out of that defense and started being aggressive and sending pressures.”
Lee answered Monument’s opening score with a 77-yard drive that ended in William Thomson’s 3-yard plunge. Petrescu’s kick was good, and the Wildcats had a 7-6 lead they never relinquished.
Petrescu capped the next drive with a field goal, and Lee went 52 yards on its next possession, which featured three completed passes from two different QBs.
First, starter Samuel Joyce hit back-to-back completions to Thomson for 15 yards. Later, Omari Smith completed the 30-yarder down the left side to Bartini for the touchdown.
“They’ve been in a quarterback battle throughout the preseason,” coach Thomson said. “We thought right now they’re pretty close. Omari brings some things to the table that are very unique with him, and we think Samuel brings some things to the table that are unique to him.
“We’re gonna go with this until either we see some clear separation there or it backfires.”
Bartini capped the first half with a 4-yard score, and Petrescu’s PAT made it 24-6.
But that was all the offense either side could muster.
The Wildcats picked up a couple of first downs on their first possession of the second half to get to the Monument Mountain 26, but Henderson picked off a pass to end the threat. In the fourth quarter, Lee got the ball at midfield after a Zach Nicotra interception and drove to the 11, but Petrescu’s field goal attempt was blocked with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left to play.
“Too many mistakes,” Thomson said. “I thought the first half, we did a pretty good job. Second half, not pretty. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a very tough Wahconah program coming in next week. We’ll feel good about this one tonight, and we’ll go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”
Monument Mountain also is home next week when it welcomes Easthampton. Tucci said his squad can take away one big positive from Week 1: holding Lee off the scoreboard in the second half.
“Having seen these guys play before, a second half of football with defense like that, you really can’t ask for anything more than that,” he said. “These kids never hung their heads. They believed in what was possible. We put ourselves in a position to make this game competitive. It only makes us stronger for next week.
“We have plenty to build on from this. We have plenty of positives from that second half to take with us.”
Photos from this game to come.