Late touchdown pass lifts Monessen past turnover-plagued Jefferson-Morgan

Friday, September 13, 2019 | 10:57 PM

You could definitely tell it was Friday the 13th at Parker Field.

Monessen and host Jefferson-Morgan combined for 11 turnovers, and both squads shot themselves in the foot at key times with penalties and other miscues.

However, the Monessen defense was opportunistic down the stretch and the offense got the final score with 1 minutes, 19 seconds left, as they prevailed over the Rockets, 28-21, in a wild, back-and-forth game to pick up their first win of the season.

“When we want to, we are capable of executing our plays and winning games,” Monessen coach Mike Blainfield said. “It was a gutsy effort by our kids, and we battled through a lot of adversity. We never gave up, and the guys just believed in each other.”

After turning ball over on downs near midfield with 3:43 left in regulation, the Monessen defense rose up and stripped the ball from Jefferson-Morgan running back Jonathan Wolfe after a 40-yard gain. Monessen (1-3, 1-1) alertly covered the ball and had a second chance at its own 10-yard line.

Six plays later, backup quarterback DaWayne Howell hooked up with Antown Tucker for the winning touchdown from 38 yards.

“We knew our first-string quarterback was nursing a sore shoulder, so DaWayne saw a lot of reps in practice this week,” Blainfield said. “He throws a nice, accurate deep ball. He showed a lot of composure on the field and his teammates trusted him.”

Howell, who finished with 237 yards on 16 of 25 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions, found Marquell Smith for the successful 2-point conversion after the late score.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Greyhounds forced their seventh turnover and iced the game by covering up the loose ball. J-M lost six fumbles and was held scoreless in the second half after carrying a 21-20 lead into halftime.

“I give Monessen all the credit, but turnovers killed us tonight,” J-M coach Aaron Giorgi said. “You can’t win games when you have seven turnovers. Those late turnovers in the fourth quarter was the deciding factor. We didn’t play to our full potential tonight.”

The Rockets (1-3, 1-2) opened up the scoring at the 9:07 mark of the first quarter when Cole Jones found a streaking Tyler Kniha for a 52-yard scoring pass.

Monessen countered with the next two scores in the opening quarter, as starting quarterback Jalen Brice, who was injured in the second half, threw touchdown passes to Darius Stevenson (20 yards) and Smith (7).

J-M rebounded with 14 unanswered points by way of a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Colt Fowler and an 8-yard TD run by Wolfe, who finished with 148 yards on the ground.

“We held their athletes in check in the first half and took advantage of some short fields,” Giorgi said. “Their passing game hurt us, and we left a lot of plays on the field.”

The Greyhounds garnered the final score of the first half when Howell found Stevenson for a 23-yard score. Stevenson finished with six catches for 128 yards, and Smith compiled 10 receptions for 77 yards.

“Our defense won us the game tonight,” Blainfield said. “Our point of emphasis this week was to attack the ball and go for the strip. We had to win the takeaway battle, and our guys did a nice job of tackling and getting to the ball.”

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