In the blistering cold weather, the South Putnam and North Montgomery football teams put on a show Friday. In a high-octane, explosive game from start to finish, the Eagles defeated the Chargers, 49-35, to advance to host Tri-West in the Class 2A Sectional final Friday at 7 p.m.
"I told the team the team afterward that it was a team victory," South Putnam coach Mark Wildman said. "We just thought we had a good week of practice and that includes the freshmen, sophomores and juniors -- all those people helping us get ready."
The Eagles amassed 449 total yards in the game, including 265 passing yards from quarterback Anthony Tomasino. Bryce Birkemeier ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns on five carries, averaging 20.4 yards per carry. Drew Christy had 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Matt Hicks caught 5 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
"Bryce Birkemeier had some big plays running the ball," Wildman said. "Drew Christy was real consistent running the ball. Matt Hicks made a couple big plays catching the ball."
The Eagles came out fired up, scoring on their first possession of the game. Tomasino hit Christy with a six-yard pass with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter. North Montgomery responded with a a seven-play drive, capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Jake German to Andrew Foust.
It looked like it was going to be a heavyweight slugfest from the start. However, South Putna shutout North Montgomery in the second quarter, scored another 14 points and went into halftime with a 21-7 lead.
"The first half I thought we did a really good job stopping the run," Wildman said. "I just thought we played really good defense."
In the first play of the second half, the Eagles appeared to blow things wide-open. Christy returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 28-7 lead early in the second half.
"There were a lot of big plays on offense," Wildman said. "That was one of the good things."
The Chargers did not struggle on offense either, gaining 362 total yards, including 197 yards rushing. Just when North Montgomery seemed to be in serious danger, the offense started to fire back. The combination of Alex Lough, Zach Hockersmith and Taylor McGaughey were running all over the Eagles in the second half, bringing North Montgomery back in the thick of things.
"They started to figure out blocking schemes against our defense," Wildman said. "We opened up the game with probably a little different defensive front than they expected."
The Chargers scored two straight touchdowns, making the score 28-21, with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. From there, the game went punch for punch, with the Eagles getting the final blow on a 58-yard bomb from Tomasino to Hicks with 3:11 remaining in the contest. The touchdown gave the Eagles a 49-35 lead, sealing the fate of the Chargers.
The Eagles have a tough test ahead of them Friday. Tri-West defeated South Putnam, 54-13 in the second week of the season.
Although Wildman knows the Bruins are tough, he's not going to count the Eagles out of any game.
"We've made a lot of improvements in a lot of places," he said. "That was a long time ago. We just thought all along that we're a better team now than we were the first two weeks of the season."
At South Putnam
South Putnam 7 14 7 21 -- 49
North Montgomery 7 0 14 14 -- 35
South Putnam -- Christy pass from Tomasino (Hicks kick) 4:05.
North Montgomery -- Foust pass from German (German kick) 1:01.
South Putnam -- McKinney 15 run (Hicks kick) 8:05.
South Putnam -- Hicks 70 pass from Tomasino (Hicks kick) 4:33.
South Putnam -- Christy 82 kick return (Hicks kick) 11:47.
North Montgomery -- Lough 6 run (kick failed) 7:56.
North Montgomery -- Foust 5 pass from German (two-point conversion successful) 1:56.
South Putnam -- Birkemeier 17 run (Hicks kick) 11:54.
North Montgomery -- Hockersmith 4 run (kick blocked) 9:34.
South Putnam -- Birkemeier 57 run (Hicks kick) 8:39.
North Montgomery -- German 4 run (two-point conversion successful) 5:15.
South Putnam -- Hicks 58 pass from Tomasino (Hicks kick) 3:11.
First downs: South Putnam 8, North Montomery 22.
Fumbles-lost: South Putnam 2-0, North Montgomery 4-2.
Rushing yards: South Putnam 184, North Montgomery 197.
Passing yards: South Putnam 265, North Montgomery 165.
Total offense: South Putnam 449, North Montgomery 362.
South Putnam -- Tomasino 12-14 265 yds 3 TD 1INT.
North Montgomery -- German 17-29 165 yds 2 TD 2INT.
South Putnam -- Birkemeier 5-102, Christy 16-90, McKinney 1-15, McCallie 3-3, Tomasino 5 (-24).
North Montgomery -- Lough 14-81, Hockersmith 10-67, McGaughey 9-59, German 5-(-10).
South Putnam -- Hicks 5-196, Christy 2-15, Anderson 1-9, Huck 1-8, Rhine 1-6, McKinney 1-4.
North Montgomery -- Foust 6-53, Brady 4-49, McGaughey 3-34, Evans 3-34, Crum 1-1.
Next game -- South Putnam hosts Tri-West Friday at 7 p.m.