Monticello’s first-ever showdown with Brookville at Stinger Stadium ended with the Mustangs’ fourth second-round road playoff loss in the past five seasons, driven in part by a frustrating string of calls that stung Monticello in the 19-15 loss.
“It was an interestingly-called game,” said Monticello coach Jeff Lloyd in his first stab at a postgame question about the officials. The Mustangs were flagged 12 times for 110 yards on the night, compared to seven penalties against the Bees for 50 yards.
More consequential perhaps than the penalty though was a spot on a third down and 10 from the Brookville 43 late in the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Kevin Jarrell appeared to hit junior wideout Ben Drake a couple of yards beyond the sticks to extend a potential game-winning drive.
“When they ran in from the sidelines, we had the first down,” said Lloyd after Drake caught the ball near the 31 but was thrown backwards to the 34. “When the ball was put down, it wasn’t where they ran in, and it wasn’t where he got the ball. That’s just a fact.”
With the ball spotted for fourth down without a measurement, Monticello called its second timeout with 2:47 remaining. At that time, Jarrell and senior running back Jerrick Ayers had each rushed 18 times. Jarrell’s number was called for the 19th time, a sneak to the right side. The pile was big and the spot less clear.
“Man, it was such a mass of bodies, I couldn’t see,” said Brookville coach Jon Meeks, whose squad was out of timeouts and would have been in a precarious spot had the Mustang offense earned a fresh set of downs. “I knew we had a shot because it didn’t look like the pile got pushed too much. I knew when he went down there was chance we might have made the play of the game.”
This time, the chains were brought out, and the ball was short.
“I think he [Kevin]’s the best player in the state, and if I had to do it again, I’d do it again,” Lloyd said, as Brookville took over to salt away the final 2:41 on the clock.
The Bees picked up one first down but still faced a third-and-3 after Monticello spent its final timeout with 51 seconds remaining. The Bees ran for one yard, but officials took more than 20 seconds to spot the ball. With the play clock whistled in as the game clock ticked under 23 seconds, Brookville could celebrate its victory, and berth in the Region 3C final, without running a fourth down play.
“I think all I heard all week was this game was going to be a shootout; that both defenses were struggling and the offenses were going to show off,” said Meeks. “I thought both defenses showed up and played some ball and that was just an unbelievable high school game.”
There were still some offensive stars with big stats by night’s end: senior Brookville quarterback Tanner Bernard completed 21 of 36 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. His top targets were a pair of junior receivers, Micah Glaize (7 catches for 151 yards) and Brendon Brown (5 for 111).
“I mean, they were running man,” said Bernard. “I have faith in my receivers. It’s hard to cover our receivers, so we just hit it hard, and it paid out for us.”
Bernard delivered what proved to be the game-winning score via a 46-yard pass to Glaize on a fourth-and-10 for Brookville with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter.
“If the game’s on the line, we’re going to put the ball in number 3’s hands,” said Meeks. “If he had thrown that ball and it was incomplete, I can lay my head down tonight and say we kept swinging to the very end. That [call] was just me thinking, ‘this game’s too close, they’ve got all the momentum; we’re either going to end it here and take the load or they might have us.’”
The go-ahead strike capped a 13-play, 98-yard drive for the Bees, which started after a crucial fumble recovery just as Monticello was poised to open a two-possession lead. Of course, that fumble was not without controversy on a night filled with it.
“I did [believe he was down],” Lloyd said of the play where Jarrell ran to the right side and into a pile at the 2.
Of course, for Monticello there were many opportunities to have taken the game out of the officials’ hands. Even before the fourth quarter fumble, Monticello had red zone drives in both the second and third quarters that came up empty.
“We didn’t score enough points tonight, but in a playoff game, you don’t score maybe as often are you’re used to,” Lloyd said. “Brookville just made more plays than we did tonight and we hurt ourselves with turning the ball over. Our kids scrapped and clawed and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The Mustangs got on the board first on their third possession of the first quarter. Jarrell hit Ayers on a third-and-10 screen pass that went 56 yards for a touchdown.
“The name of our defense was ‘they’re running a screen’ so we were very frustrated,” Meeks said. “We literally had a D-end, an outside backer, and an inside backer spying screen on our call. We went over that at halftime.”
The teams traded punts into the second quarter before Monticello mounted a 12-play drive starting from its own 37. Jarrell hit Drake for 10 yards to convert a fourth-and-8, but once the offense reached the Bees’ 20, the drive stalled and the Mustangs turned it over on downs. Brookville threatened on its ensuing series, reaching the MHS 40, but a fourth-and-12 pass deep down the home sideline to Glaize was ruled caught out-of-bounds, drawing the ire of the maroon crowd.
“The ref down there [at the pylon] called it a catch, but the ref that overturned it did a great job of explaining it to me,” Meeks said. “He did have a better angle. He was probably barely out.”
Monticello looked like it might add to its lead before the break after a 28-yard catch by Dylan Booth down to the Bees’ 33; however, it went in reverse from there and led to a punt. Brookville took over with 1:01 left in the half and mounted a huge 83-yard drive, starting with a 51-yard reception by Glaize. Bernard hit sophomore Zack Thompson at the goal line with one second left in the first half to send the Bees into the locker room down just 7-6 after a blocked extra point.
The second half featured three lead changes, starting with Brookville’s opening possession. Bernard capped an eight-play, 66-yard drive with a toss to Brown, who took it in for a 17-yard touchdown and a 12-7 lead. Monticello came back with an impressive drive, converting three third downs and a fourth down to reach the Bees’ 13. But on the fourteenth play, the ball was on the turf and Brookville recovered. However, the Bees gave it back three plays later when Drake intercepted a third down pass over the middle. Ayers cashed in with a 9-yard touchdown run, and Jarrell ran in for the two-point conversion to put Monticello back on top 15-12 as the third quarter drew to a close.
Brookville started its next drive in good position at the 42, but an ineligible lineman downfield nullified a big passing play and instead setup a third-and-12. The Mustangs’ secondary limited a hook-and-ladder play to eight yards, and a fourth down pass on the first snap of the fourth quarter fell incomplete. That brought the offense out near midfield, which dialed up back-to-back runs by Ayers and Jarrell covering 22 and 21 yards. The momentum seemed to be snowballing for the visitors with first-and-goal at the 3 before the critical fumble with 11:19 remaining.
Jarrell finished with 284 total yards, including a game-high 106 yards on the ground, 80 of which came in the second half. He completed 11-of-24 passes for 178 yards. Fellow senior Austin Haverstrom caught four of them for 42 yards. Ayers finished as the receiving leader with the 55-yard screen reception and added 68 yards rushing.
“The kids bought into the offseason [after] we were 3-7 a year ago; I challenged those kids and they did everything I asked,” said Lloyd, as Monticello finished its season 9-3. “A play away from playing for a regional championship and my heart’s broken for those kids. It’s kind of surreal that I don’t get to coach them anymore.”
Brookville (10-2) looks ahead to an all-Lynchburg area region championship next week, as the Bees will head across town for a rematch with top-seeded Heritage (11-1) at City Stadium.