Brice’s return sparks big senior-night win for Monessen against Avella

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Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:36 PM


It wasn’t until recently that Jalen Brice was able to grip a football let alone step behind center for Monessen.

The senior has been recovering from a broken thumb the last few weeks and finally returned to his role as the starting quarterback Friday night.

Still feeling the effects of the injury, Brice persevered by throwing for nearly 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding two rushing scores in Monessen’s 48-14 victory over Avella in Tri-County South Conference play on senior night at Memorial Stadium.

“He’s a Greyhound, and he has heart like a Greyhound,” Monessen coach Mikey Blainefield said of Brice. “I think he could have played in any era, and that makes him special.”

Brice was able to have an impact in more ways than one.

Despite throwing three interceptions, Brice completed 8 of 18 passes for 199 yards and a pair of 15-yard touchdown passes to Antwon Tucker. He finished with 72 rushing yards and scores of 5 and 10 yards, and he also had an interception on defense.

“This just signified how amazing he’s been throughout his whole career,” Blainefield said. “He played tonight throwing the ball with a broken thumb, and he took command of the offense and was the general on defense. He did everything you could ask of him and more.”

Brice gave the Hounds (4-6, 4-3) an early 6-0 lead on their first possession. Another score soon followed.

After forcing Avella (1-9, 0-7) to punt, Monessen drove 35 yards on six plays to cap a drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Nigier Foster that pushed the lead to 12-0 after a second failed two-point conversion.

Avella broke through on the scoreboard in the second quarter thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Derek Tarolli, who completed 12 of 31 passes for 95 yards.

Tarolli, who also threw a pair of interceptions, cut Avella’s deficit to 12-7 on a 7-yard strike to Justin Dryer before later connecting with Tanner Terensky for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

“We had great success last week, throwing for over 200 yards and four touchdowns (against Mapletown),” Avella coach Ryan Cecchini said. “We tried to keep that rolling. We got it going early, but as it went on, we couldn’t hold on up front against their guys.”

The play of Monessen’s defense was a big factor, especially in the second half when it shut down Avella’s offense, forcing three punts and three turnover on downs.

The Eagles were limited to 157 yards of offense, just 62 yards rushing.

Monessen also forced three turnovers — a fumble and interceptions by Dom Tineri and Brice.

“I think the difference was they were more physical than us,” Cecchini said. “That really took a toll on us, and they just wore us down.”

“We made some adjustments up front defensively at halftime, and our defensive line really came alive in the second half,” Blainefield said. “We really shut them down, especially on third down.”

Monessen totaled 475 yards, finishing with 276 yards on the ground.

Elijah Davis led the way with 136 yards on 13 carries along with a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Foster had six carries for 62 yards.

“We were able to finally find a balance as far as being successful running the ball and being able to pass successfully also,” Blainefield said. “Moving the sticks was big, and then we timed our big plays effectively.”

Monessen scored 14 points in the second quarter, one on a run from Brice and the other on a 2-yard touchdown run by Gage Hayden.

A playoff team the last two seasons, Monessen will be absent from the postseason this year.

However, a senior night win was a pleasant way for the Hounds to finish the season.

“Senior night is always special as those seniors play their last game on this field,” Blainefield said. “I remember watching it as a fan, doing it as a player and now as a coach. You always want to make the time special for those players on the field, and we did that tonight.”

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