On the coldest night of the 2017 football season, Monticello got an early lesson on ball security when the ball popped loose for a turnover on the opening kickoff return.
The Mustangs didn’t have many miscues after that though as third-seeded Monticello overwhelmed sixth-seeded Waynesboro and advanced to the Region 3C semifinals with a 56-14 victory.
“It feels good,” said Monticello coach Jeff Lloyd. “It validates our kids’ offseason commitment to the football program. It’s [likely] the last time the seniors will play on this field, and it’s a good way for them to go out.”
After the special teams turnover setup Waynesboro on the Mustangs’ 36, the defense surrendered one first down and then tightened the screws, making a pair of sacks and stopping a running back for a loss. Linebackers Garrett Porterfield and Cole Ramsey were a constant presence in the Little Giants’ offensive backfield, as the visitors would not move the chains again until midway through the third quarter.
“We went back to my defense that I brought with me when I came here, the 3-5-3, and our kids really like it and they played well with it tonight,” Lloyd said. “We hadn’t played well against option, power-running teams [Louisa and Charlottesville]. It just allows us to bring a little bit of pressure that we couldn’t bring out of our 3-4.”
After a punt, Monticello’s offense took the field and moved 51 yards in 11 plays, mostly on the ground behind senior quarterback Kevin Jarrell. However, the Little Giants stopped him for no gain on fourth-and-2, and the game remained scoreless eight minutes into the first quarter. But in short order, Jarrell brought the offense back out when he charged from his safety position to recover a fumble by Waynesboro’s fullback. The Mustangs covered 42 yards in three plays, with the bulk coming via a 25-yard reception by junior receiver Ben Drake. Jarrell ran in from 7 yards to put Monticello on the board.
A sack by Ramsey started the next defensive three-and-out. The punt turned into an adventure as pressure from Danny Talbert forced the punter to bail out toward the sideline before trying a desperation kick while being tackled by Porterfield. Matt Allen batted it to the ground and the offense was back out at the Giants’ 49. Jarrell hit senior Austin Haverstrom to convert third-and-10. Two plays later, junior Trenton Johnson went up and grabbed a deep ball for a 34-yard touchdown as the opening quarter ended.
“We made some plays in the passing game, even though I knew that was going to be tough tonight because of the weather,” said Lloyd. “The ball gets slicker and hands aren’t quite as warm.”
The greatest beneficiary of the Mustangs’ early success through the air was probably senior running back Jerrick Ayers. Beginning with the next offensive series, he repeatedly gashed the Giants’ front seven. Monticello’s drive covered 84 yards, and he accounted for 67 of them on five carries. Jarrell capped it with a 2-yard keeper to make it 21-0. After another three-and-out aided by a joint Ramsey-Porterfield third down tackle-for-six-yard-loss, Ayers ran four times for 52 yards before Jarrell broke a 28-yard touchdown, his third of the half.
“Mostly everyone was focusing on Kevin [Jarrell] lately, so I got hyped for that,” said Ayers, who finished the night with a career-high 206 yards on 19 carries. “I’ve got to give a shout out to the line. If I hit 200, I did it with them.”
Waynesboro suffered its second blocked punt after its next series, courtesy of Ramsey. Two plays later, Ayers finally cashed in with a three-yard touchdown to send Monticello into the break with a 35-0 lead.
“After the first three plays, I looked over at Shawn [Moran, offensive coordinator] and said, ‘we might be in trouble,’” said Waynesboro coach Derek McDaniel, as his squad managed just 7 total yards in the first half. “They went back to the 3-5-3 they ran against us two years ago. They’ve got people coming from every angle, just too quick.”
With the margin as it was, those who remained for the second half enjoyed the benefit of a running clock. Monticello’s first offensive series started in Giants’ territory after a 23-yard punt return by Haverstrom. Jarrell scored on a 2-yard run to make it 42-0 before Waynesboro finally mounted a sustained drive. The Giants moved 80 yards in 12 plays before Moore dove in from 1 yard. Jarrell and Ayers took the field for one more series to answer with an 80-yard drive of their own. Ayers scored on the seventh play from 7 yards out to make it 49-7 a minute into the fourth quarter.
Each team scored once more. Waynesboro got a 23-yard touchdown run from Delano Green, and then senior receiver Dylan Booth shifted over to quarterback for Monticello and capped a 72-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper.
“We were very good on third down,” Lloyd said. “In the first half we were five out of six. That’s big in any football game, but especially in playoff football games.”
The Mustangs finished with 499 yards of total offense. After Ayers, Jarrell tallied 133 yards on the ground. He also completed 6-of-12 passes for 88 yards. Green led Waynesboro with 71 yards on 14 carries. Moore added 65 on 21 rushing attempts.
“5 [Jarrell]’s as good a player as you could play against,” McDaniel said. “That cat is pretty good. I’ve faced some good ones this year: Brookville, Harrisonburg, Rockbridge. He’s as good as any of them if not better. He’s got some cohorts around him that support him.”
As Waynesboro (4-7) wrapped up its season with a fourth-straight playoff appearance, McDaniel announced his intention to retire as head coach in the postgame huddle.
“I’m very proud of these seniors,” said McDaniel, who looks forward to more time with his family after a total of 37 seasons on the sidelines. “The program when I got here wasn’t very good. We had to claw our way out. It took a lot of work and a lot of effort on a lot of people’s parts. That first group [as a #16 seed in 2014] went down to [#1 seed] Hidden Valley and went three deep in the playoffs, something nobody’s done in the history of the playoffs. The whole atmosphere of the school changed.”
Monticello (9-2) now looks forward to a road trip to Lynchburg where second-seeded Brookville (9-2) awaits in a Region 3C Semifinal. The Mustangs will need to divert from the program’s recent pattern, as the last three playoff runs (2013-15) ended on a second-round trip to the southwest.
“They’re going to be a great team and we’ve got to come out like we did tonight,” Jarrell said. “Start fast and play fast the entire game. Do our jobs on defense. I think we’ll be alright.”