Field day for California defense in shutout against Monessen

Friday, October 22, 2021 | 11:45 PM

Inclement weather and harsh field conditions played a big role in Friday night’s Tri-County South Conference matchup between California and Monessen.

The two Class A foes combined for eight turnovers and slightly more than 150 yards of total offense as the Trojans managed to capture a 23-0 victory over the Greyhounds at Memorial Stadium.

Despite having several scoring opportunities go unfulfilled, California (6-2, 4-2) found ways to put points on the board in just about every facet of the game.

The Trojans had a passing touchdown, one on the ground, another on a blocked punt and their first points came on a field goal. They finished with 127 total yards, including 104 on the ground, in the win.

“I know the weather conditions didn’t help either team, but that’s not an excuse. We can’t have fumbles, and when we’re down inside the 10-yard line, we have to punch it in, and we didn’t do that,” California coach Ed Woods said. “I’m disappointed with that, but the kids played hard.”

Defensively, the Trojans were dominant in keeping the Greyhounds’ offense in check.

They forced four first-half turnovers, including interceptions by Caden Powell and Cory Frick, and held Monessen (3-6, 2-4) to just 29 yards.

“We just couldn’t move the ball,” Monessen coach Wade Brown said. “I think it was a combination of the field conditions and their defense. They did a lot of things to us that I think confused us up front.”

The Trojans led 10-0 at halftime despite committing four turnovers – three fumbles and an interception – and totaling 74 yards.

Frick hit a 29-yard field goal for the lone points of the first quarter before Hunter Assad connected with a wide open Zach Geletei on a wheel route for a 23-yard score with 33.4 seconds remaining before the halftime break.

“Giving up that touchdown right before the half really knocked the wind out of our sails,” Brown said. “I have to give kudos to my defense, though, because we basically played the whole first half in our end of the field and we were always defending our goal. We were able to make stops, but it just got tough for us down the stretch. I think we got a little bit tired, and they wore us down.”

After a scoreless third quarter, the Trojans added a pair of scores in the fourth.

Cal’s special teams unit pounced on a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown before Geletei added a 20-yard touchdown run with 4:48 to go. Geletei finished with eight carries for 53 yards, while Damani Stafford totaled 19 carries for 45 yards.

“Monessen had some guys up front on the defensive line that were pretty stout,” Woods said. “They were definitely giving us some problems.

“Wade is doing a good job with the number of kids he has. Those kids didn’t quit, and if they stick together and keep working hard, they’re going to be a good football team.”

California will finish out its regular season at home against Bentworth next week, while Monessen will look to end its four-game losing streak with a road matchup at Avella.

“I just want our guys to keep progressing. I know everyone wants Monessen football to be back and winning right away, but it’s a process we have to go through,” Brown said. “We have a young team with just two seniors, so these kids just need to learn how to win. We’ve won a few games this year, but when you’re in dogfights like the ones we have been in, you have to learn how to win tough games like these.”

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