With two non-conference losses to start the season, the beginning of the Badger South league schedule seemed to arouse the Monona Grove High School football team when it took the field Friday, Sept. 6, against visiting Monroe.
The Silver Eagles got off to a good start in the first half with three touchdowns, fell behind but recovered in the fourth quarter to melt the Cheesemakers 39-29.
Camron Behnke played the entire game at quarterback and did well with 10-of-20 completed for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
However, exciting sophomore running back Fabian Jackson did his part in the victory with three touchdown runs and 153 yards rushing on 13 carries. He placed all the credit on the offensive line.
“They’re going to block for you and open up those holes. You can’t do anything without those five guys on the line,” Jackson said. “If you work as a team, you’ll get touchdowns. It’s lovely.”
Head coach Brandon Beckwith said the offensive line did its job to provide the running room, but said Jackson did very well at making good reads.
“He hit the hole hard, got his pads down, and that’s what we ask for our running backs,” Beckwith said. “He was a finisher tonight.”
Jackson put MG on the board with 90 seconds left in the first quarter as he dashed 34 yards into the end zone. Oliver Huston’s kick put the Silver Eagles on top 7-0.
Monona Grove struck again 2:37 into the second quarter when Behnke – on the verge of being sacked behind the line of scrimmage – flipped a pass to Henry Walsh who zoomed around Monroe defenders for an 85-yard touchdown reception. Huston missed on the extra point, but MG led 13-0. Behnke capped off a 72-yard drive with 4:03 left before halftime as he reached pay dirt on a 10-yard touchdown run to increase the Silver Eagle lead to 20-0.
But Monroe regrouped on its next possession as Trevor Rodebaugh scored on a 26-yard run with 2:44 remaining to slice the lead to 20-7.
The Cheesemakers threatened to score again on its next possession but MG’s Grant Dahlhauser snared an interception to give the ball back to MG once more before halftime. After Jackson ran 10 yards and Walsh caught a 13-yard reception to put the ball on the Monroe 45, Behnke uncorked a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, but the pass was intercepted by Monroe, and MG kept its 20-7 lead.
The Cheesemakers first possession of the second half was successful as Nick Bansley scored on a 69-yard touchdown run.
After Monroe added a field goal at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter to reduce MG’s lead to 20-16, the Silver Eagles fought back seconds later when Jackson took off on a 67-yard touchdown run to put MG on top 26-16.
Monroe responded with 36 seconds left in the period as Rodebaugh reeled off a 56-yard scoring run to make it a 26-23 game heading into the final 12 minutes.
After Monona Grove didn’t score on its next possession, Monroe took over the ball with 10:43 remaining and used up four minutes on an 80-yard drive with Bansley getting a touchdown on a 5-yard run. The extra point failed, but Monroe led 29-26 with 6:23 to go.
The Silver Eagles started its next possession with good field position on their own 41. Behnke and Jackson controlled the ball on running plays, and MG took advantage of two penalties to put the ball on the Monroe 1-yard line. Jackson then muscled his way into the end zone as MG regained the lead 32-29 with 3:11 left in the game.
The Silver Eagles put the game away when Garrett Hanson recovered a Monroe fumble to give MG the ball on the Cheesemakers’ 24. After MG lost yardage on two running plays, Behnke found Kameron Reuter with a 30-yard scoring strike to put the Silver Eagles ahead 39-29 with 95 seconds left in the game.
“We work all week on plays, and I just trusted my guys,” Behnke said afterwards. “I have great chemistry with my receivers. I trusted Kam and knew I could (fake the Monroe defense) with the pump fake.”
Walsh led MG receivers with three catches for 122 yards, and aside from throwing the ball, Behnke used his fast feet to gain 53 yards rushing on 10 carries. Mitch Hunter led the defense with 14 total tackles.
The offensive production was virtually equal as MG gained 472 total offense and Monroe had 463. Rodebaugh led the Cheesemakers with 205 yards rushing, and Bansley ran for 123.
“They are a physical football team. They have guys that can play offense and defense, and they just kept fighting,” Beckwith said. “Kudos to them, but we came out strong and the guys kept the energy levels up.”
Monona Grove hosts Monroe at 7 p.m. Friday. The Red Hawks improved to 3-0 last week after a 41-7 victory over Fort Atkinson.