Consecutive losses to Cassville and Lamar had dampened the spirit of some fans, but not the fighting spirit of the Cubs. Despite falling behind 13-0 the Cubs rallied to claim a 34-26 victory.
"The boys kept digging and scratching," said Monett coach Chad Depée. "We could have folded once we got down 13, but the team responded and finished strong."
Monett stumbled on the ensuing drive. Kurran Blamey picked up 2 yards on first down, then a holding penalty erased a 20-yard run. On second and 14, Monett fumbled and Seneca recovered on the 6-yard line.
Two plays later, the Indians took a lead on Marty Mailes' 6-yard rumble to pay dirt. Seneca's two-point conversion failed and the Indians led 6-0 with 6:50 left in the first period.
The Cubs showed tremendous guts, determination and the grit that the coaching staff has worked to instill in its gridiron warriors on the ensuing possession.
Beginning at its 22-yard-line, the Cubs gained 26 yards on carries by Aaron Hall, Kyle Woods and Blamey. A 41-yard pass to Blamey moved the ball to the Seneca 8 and two plays later Hall exploded into the end zone to cut the lead. Blamey, on the two-point conversion, leaped 3 yards and over two Seneca defenders to make the score 13-8 with 10:12 left in the first half.
The Indians tried to mount a drive with 4:58 left in the half, but Kyle Hammond ended the series with an interception off a tipped pass at the midfield stripe.
A 44-yard gallop by Hall two plays later gave the Cubs first and goal at the 4-yard line, but a false start penalty and a defiant Indian defense held the Cubs out of the end zone and kept the score 13-8 at intermission.
"We felt that we left a score on the field right before halftime," said Depée. "To the boys' credit, it didn't affect their attitude in the locker room. We wanted to come out and play a strong second half."
During the 20-minute break, the weather changed.
Instead of a clear cool fall night, a gusty southerly wind brought a thick fog that left a constant haze on the field at Burl Fowler Stadium.
The omen proved to be bad for the visitors wearing red and white.
Monett open the second half with a focus and determination that rivaled the energy the Cubs had against Aurora.
Monett took the opening kickoff and cruised 66 yards in eight plays with Woods plunging into the end zone behind his offensive line to give Monett a 14-13 lead.
The Indians failed to handle a high, short kick on the ensuing kickoff, allowing Monett to recover.
Although the drive ultimately stalled, momentum was clearly in the Cubs' favor.
Seneca, with 2:41 left in the third, began a drive at the 40-yard line. Seven plays and four minutes later, the Indians faced a fourth and 5 at the Cubs' 13.
On fourth down, Rawlins floated a pass across the field that was intercepted by Blamey at the 5-yard line. Ten seconds, 95 yards and a Woods two-point conversion later, Monett's lead grew to 22-13 with 10:25 left in the game.
Like two boxing heavyweight contenders standing toe-to-toe trading punches, the two teams who for three quarters had been locked in a defensive struggle suddenly became offensive juggernauts.
Seneca threw the first jab and quickly struck with a 65-yard scoring march on its next series. Chance Smith caught a 6-yard pass from Rawlins to trim the lead to 22-19 with 7:37 remaining the game.
The Cubs responded with an uppercut 71-yard drive highlighted by a 58-yard run by Hall. Woods found the end zone from 1-yard out to increase the Cubs advantage to 28-19 with 5:29 left on the clock.
Standing firm, Seneca whisked quickly down the field, covering 54 yards in five plays. Smith caught a 36-yard touchdown pass to pull the Indians within two points at 28-26 with 2:50 left in the game.
On the following kickoff, Monett was able to recover the Indians' onside kick attempt at midfield.
The Cubs looked to milk the final minutes off the clock to secure the victory.
Two consecutive runs into the teeth of the Seneca defense left Monett four yards short of a first down.
On the next play, the Cubs delivered a devastating blow to the Indians. Wood faked a handoff to Hall and rolled to his left. He found tight end Devon Overall open for a 24-yard gain to the Indians' 20.
Two plays later, Hall secured the knockout, breaking free for a 19-yard rumble to lift the Cubs to a 34-26 advantage.
Three incomplete passes and Matt Murphy's third sack of the game ensured a Cubs victory.
"The boys responded really well," said Depée. "We needed a positive outcome and the boys delivered."
Seneca racked up 405 yards of total offense, 121 yards rushing and 305 passing.
Rawlins completed 24 of 44 passes for 305 yards with two touchdown and two interceptions.
Mailes rushed for 88 yards on nine carries. Graham rushed for 36 yards on 15 carries and hauled in six passes for 114 yards.
Monett gained 365 total yards of offense, 197 yards rushing and 178 yards passing.
Woods finished six of seven passes and rushed 10 times for 15 yards. Hall ran the ball for 139 yards on 24 carries. Blamey caught three passes for 67 yards.
With Mt. Vernon falling 21-17 to Carl Junction, coupled with the Cubs win over the Indians, Monett vaulted to the third seed in the district playoffs.
Monett travels to Carl Junction on Friday, Oct. 19. A victory would ensure that Monett hosts a district playoff game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.