Monument Mountain Gets One-Point Win over Rival Lee

By Stephen Sports
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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. – Ten years of frustration against their biggest rivals.
A fumble at the goal line with a chance to tie the game in the closing moments of the first half.
A miraculous throw and catch by their opponent for a potential game-winning score with 5 seconds on the clock.
The Monument Mountain Spartans overcame all of it in a 14-13 win over Lee on Friday night.
Cole Bissaillon ran for 116 yards, and Shaun Frank rushed for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Monument Mountain opened the season with a nail-biting victory to open the season.
After the Wildcats scored midway through the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead, the Spartans answered with a drive from their 42 to the Lee 5. But on first and goa with a light rain growing stronger, Monument Mountain fumbled the ball away and went to half-time in a seven-point hole.
Spartans coach Chris Tucci reached deep into the past to keep his team looking forward.
“There’s this championship fighter in the late ‘70s, a fighter named Vito, and there’s a great story of him going 12 rounds, and he won the fight, and he kept punching,” Tucci said. “Nobody gave him a shot, and he just stayed in.
“And I told these boys, ‘We’ve got to be like Vito. We just gotta keep punching.’ “
After the Spartans punched their way back and punched in a pair of scores to take a 14-7 lead, Lee went from its 42 to the end zone in 1 minute, 17 seconds to get within a point. Again, Tucci leaned into the boxing lore.
“When they came off the field there at that last moment before the 2-point conversion, I said, ‘You guys are looking at me like we lost the game. We’ve got to keep punching,’ “ he said. “ ‘Can we keep punching?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, we can keep punching.’
“And we got lucky with the weather being a little wet, right? It affected us. It affected them. But at the end of the day, we just kept punching.”
Lee never got to run its conversion play. Instead it was stopped by the last in a long string of fumbles on the rainy night. The Spartans recovered the inevitable onside kick and were able to take a knee before getting down to the business of celebrating their first win over Lee since 2012.
For a while on Friday, it looked like neither team was going to give up any points.
The teams traded fruitless possessions and punts the first four times they touched the ball.
Finally, Lee got a spark on special teams, when Tyler Bartini ran a punt back 40 yards to the Monument Mountain 15. Three plays later, Dawson Reber took the ball in from the 1. Michael Lillie booted in the extra point to put his team up, 7-0.
Bissaillon’s 20-yard return on the ensuing kickoff got Monument near midfield, and the Spartans moved efficiently down to the 5 before putting the ball on the ground with 2:06 left in the first half.
The Spartans fumbled the ball away again to start the second half, but Lee returned the favor, and Monument Mountain marched from its 26 to the Lee 31 before seeing a drive stall out on fourth down late in the quarter.
Early in the fourth, Monument Mountain’s defense got a big fourth down stop of its own when Samuel St. Peter and Heyden Cutlip combined on a fourth-down tackle at midfield.
Two plays later, the Spartans’ offense got its biggest play from scrimmage of the night when Bissaillon ran for 36 yards down to the 10.
On first and goal, Frank ran it in to make it a one-point game, and Bartini ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Spartans the lead at 8-7.
Bartini then intercepted a pass at the Lee 37 on the Wildcats ensuing possession, but another Monument fumble gave Lee the ball right back.
The Wildcats’ possession went nowhere, in part due to a couple of more tackles by St. Peter and Cutlip, and Monument Mountain got the ball at its 31 with 5:20 on the clock.
Frank and Bissaillon took turns carrying the ball to the 37, and Bissaillon got his team to the 9 with a bull rush up the middle of the Lee defense, dragging would-be tacklers the last 10 yards.
“I knew we needed a big play, so I just put my head down,” Bissaillon said. “And I knew the ball was going to be wet, so I just had to hold onto that football and keep my legs moving.That’s all I did.”
Two plays later, Frank scored from the 4 to put the Spartans ahead, 14-7, with 1:22 on the clock. The 2-point conversion failed, giving Lee an opening.
Junior quarterback Omari Smith crashed through that opening, completing passes of 26 and 15 yards on the next possession to get his team to the 20 with 32 seconds left.
After three incompletions, on fourth-and-10 from the 20, Smith rolled to his right and fired a pinpoint pass to Zack Nicotra, who tiptoed at the back of the endzone to keep from going out of bounds as he hauled in the pass to make it 14-13.
“They made a ton of plays,” Lee coach Tom Salinetti said. “These guys went out there, and they responded incredibly well, and they’ve been doing that all preseason. I can’t really ask for much more than what they gave us on that last drive.
“Shaun Kinney showed up big. Omari did things that we expected him to do when he just made play after play and was as consistent as he can be. Zack Nicotra, really big play in the end zone.”
Tucci was impressed.
“Wasn’t that a dime?” he said of Smith’s TD pass. “That kid is special, right? They’ve got nothing but good things in front of them. Somebody had to win the game tonight. It just happened to be us. I’m happy it’s us, but they have a great team.”
Lee will look to bounce back when it opens its home schedule on Friday against Lowell Catholic.
Monument Mountain is on the road next week at Easthampton.
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