MONROVIA -- With under a minute to go in the first half Friday night, it looked like South Putnam would get to the break with minimal damage.
Undefeated Monrovia had broken a couple of big plays on its way to a 14-0 advantage, but the Eagles were within shouting distance.
They just needed one stop.
Instead, the Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 WCC) ordered up two more big plays for a huge halftime advantage. A 21-yard reverse pass from Dalton Clements to Brent McCleerey for a score was followed by a Garrett Johnson 25-yard interception return for a touchdown 12 seconds later.
The Bulldogs had a 28-0 edge over the Eagles (6-2, 3-2 WCC) and rode that to a 34-0 final score and a West Central Conference championship.
"The big plays got us in the first half," said Eagle coach Troy Burgess. "Maybe we were a little flat when we came out. If that's the case, then that starts with me.
"My job each week is to prepare the players and to make sure that we're ready to play. I think we were prepared, but maybe we were a little flat early. I've got to do a better job of getting us ready to go," he added.
The Eagle defense made solid plays for much of the game, but Monrovia found ways to exploit the big play. Austin Parks busted a 44-yard sweep for the first score. Quarterback Tim Connor hit McCleerey for a 63-yard strike to set up the next TD. A 36-yard reverse by Dean Reeves set the table for the successful reverse pass later in the drive.
Little mistakes cost the Eagles big.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were dominant, holding the Eagles' vaunted rushing attack to just 60 yards and an anemic 2.3 yards per rush. Drew Cash had a rough night, but still led the Eagle rushers with 37 yards on 10 carries.
Burgess refused to make excuses for his team, giving credit to Monrovia for their performance.
"They're (Monrovia) a good football team. They're big; they're strong; they're athletic. They deserve to win this game tonight," he said.
Even when the Eagle offense would appear to click, something would go wrong.
"I thought offensively, we made mental mistakes -- snap count mistakes, missed assignments," Burgess said.
The second half was much better for the Eagle defense, as it surrendered just one Bulldog score, a five-yard run by Jake Hadley with 8:12 remaining.
But the Eagle offense never got on track, as they added just 22 yards passing to the 60 rushing.
"When you play a football team of that caliber, you better bring you're A-game. We didn't bring the A-game, but, you know what? That starts with me. I have to make sure we got our A-game," Burgess said. "We're going to go back to work tomorrow. If I know these guys, we'll get that A-game going and try to bring it next Friday night."
Clearly frustrated with the game, Burgess refused to dwell too much on the negative after the game. He told his team they made mistakes, but tried to turn their attention to moving forward.
"Nobody's happy, but this thing's far from over," he told the players
He reminded his team a 7-2 regular season would be a nice accomplishment, as well as a 4-2 WCC record. Those things will happen with a win over Cascade next Friday.
"We bounced back after North Putnam beat us. How are we going to bounce back after this?" Burgess challenged his squad.
The Eagles host the Cadets (2-7, 2-3 WCC) at 7 p.m. next Friday. 7 p.m. next Friday.
At Gordon Hadley Field
South Putnam 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Monrovia 6 22 0 6 -- 34
Mon -- Parks 44-yd. run (run failed) 2:40
Mon -- Connor 3-yd. run (Parks run good) 10:53
Mon -- McCleerey 21-yd. pass from Clements (Reeves kick good) 0:30
Mon -- Johnson 25-yd. interception return (Reeves kick good) 0:18
Mon -- Hadley 5-yd. run (run failed) 8:12
South Putnam (6-2, 3-2 WCC):
Rushing (26 carries, 60 yards) -- Cash 10-37, Zimmerman 10-11, Gibson 3-8, Freeman 3-4
Passing (3-10, 2 INT, 0 TD, 21 yards) -- Cash 1-1-0-0, 11 yds.; Zimmerman 2-9-2-0, 10 yds.
Receiving (3 catches, 21 yards) -- Zimmerman 1-11, Cash 1-10, Gibson 1-0
Monrovia (8-0, 6-0 WCC):
Rushing (43 carries, 258 yards) -- Hadley 14-78, Parks 9-82, Connor 8-12, Watson 7-25, Johnson 4-25, Reeves 1-36
Passing (3-4, 0 INT, 1 TD, 86 yards) -- Connor 2-3-0-0, 65 yds.; Clements 1-1-0-1, 21 yds.
Receiving (3 catches, 86 yards) -- McCleerey 2-84, Watson 1-2
Next game -- The Eagles conclude the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Cascade.