By CAINE GARDNER
MONROVIA -- On Friday, the South Putnam Eagles stood nose to nose with an opponent who defeated them just three weeks prior and gave them everything they had. The Eagles held third-ranked Monrovia scores for four quarter, but in the end is wasn't enough, as they fell to the Bulldogs 6-3 in overtime.
"Well I just can't say enough about them," SPHS head coach Troy Burgess said. "I'm so proud of these kids. They just played their hearts out. It's one of those games you know, with two good football teams -- you hate to see anybody lose."
A constant rain turned Monrovia's Hadley Field into a muddy mess, something that both teams had to fight against all evening. With a soaked field, most of the action occurred up the middle of the field, with South Putnam's Drew Cash and Monrovia's Garrett Johnson doing most of the damage.
But the four quarters of play was just a prelude to overtime, where the Eagles struck first.
After Cash was stopped for a one-yard loss, South Putnam sent Rob Gibson on a reverse. Gibson was able to turn the corner slightly, but a closing Monrovia defender cut his quest for the end zone short. On their next play, quarterback Grant Zimmerman sent a strike to the end zone that was batted down to the turf.
Facing four down on their first possession, the Eagles called on the strong leg of Jake Gould. In what could easily be described as less than ideal conditions, Gould connected with the ball, sending it skyward, with it finally trickling over the goalpost to give South Putnam a 3-0 lead.
South Putnam's joy was short lived, because on their first play the Bulldogs' Jake Hadley picked up nine of the 10 yards Monrovia needed to advance to the sectional final. The Eagles put up a strong stand on second down that kept Monrovia out of the end zone, but Hadley struck again and jammed the ball in from one yard out to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 win.
When the two teams met up on Oct. 9, Monrovia walked away with a 34-0 win, but Friday was a completely different tale. South Putnam's defense swarmed the Bulldogs, and besides a late fourth quarter romp from quarterback Tim Conner, the Eagles controlled the Bulldogs. Following the game, Burgess acknowledged that the team who took the field Friday was a far cry from the one that came to play on Oct. 9.
"We felt like we were better than that first time we came up here," he commented. "Our kids just did everything we asked of them. This was miserable out here for them and we didn't turn the ball over, we did what we needed to do -- the kids just played terrific.
"We did a much better job this time on our assignments," he continued. "Going to where we were supposed to go and then tackling once we got there. We didn't tackle well the first game and on a night like tonight where things are slippery, it's easy not to, but our kids did a great job. We did a great job tackling."
Burgess continued to sing the praises of his team's defensive effort and noted that his defensive coaching staff performed in stellar fashion against the Bulldogs.
"Coach (Nathan) Aker and the defensive guys, man -- what a great defensive plan," Burgess said. "To hold this team scoreless for four quarters, that's a great defensive effort by coach Aker and all our kids. Just a tremendous job."
Every season must come to an end and the Eagles are no exception. Although they would have liked a longer run in the tournament, Burgess made it clear what his team has accomplished this season and how strong they will be next season.
The Eagles say goodbye to 13 seniors this season including Drew Cash, Cameron Chestnut, Michael Nichols, Adam Masters, Derek Dean, Matt Huck, Chris Hurst, John Spencer, Logan Kinney, Tyler Marshall, Sam Geier, Wes Bratcher, Darrick Grundlock and Andrew Whitman.
Following the loss, it was difficult for Burgess to sum up what this core group has meant to the Eagles squad.
"Those seniors -- what can I say about this group of seniors. They've helped us turn the corner. They've made the commitment to us for four years and they stuck with us for four years and the dividends have paid off here. I just can't say enough about this senior class," Burgess said.
The Eagles end their season with a record of 8-3.
Class 2A No. 30 Sectional
Monrovia 0 0 0 0 6 -- 6
South Putnam 0 0 0 0 3 -- 3
SP -- Gould 23yd. field goal.
M -- Hadley 1 yd. run Individual Stats
Rushing -- Cash 34-92, Nichols 5-19, Gibson 1-2, Zimmerman 1-2, Freeman 1-1
Passing -- Cash 0-1-0-1 0 yards
Rushing -- Hadley 12-38 TD, Johnson 8-45, Conner 4-29, Parks 12-19, Watson 2-6
Passing -- Conner 0-1-0-0, 0 yards; Parks 0-1-0-0, 0 yards