GREAT BARRINGTON — For Pete Wilson, Friday night was a moment five decades in the making.
In his first game as head coach of the Monument Mountain Spartans, he earned his first career win in comeback fashion, as the Spartans topped the Pathfinder Pioneers 39-26.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Wilson said. “I’m so darn happy, it’s beyond words right now. It’s just a great feeling.”
In Monument’s first game since star running back Tyrell Beverly’s departure, the running game prospered. Senior quarterback Caleb Carlson and junior running back Jack O’Brien were heavily featured in the offense, each rushing for over 100 yards and three touchdowns, dominating the game on the ground.
In the first quarter, O’Brien ran like a man on a mission, scoring two touchdowns and busting open two long kick returns that were called back due to penalties on the Spartans.
But the Monument defense had trouble containing Donovan Manzaro, who also scored twice in the first quarter. Those, along with a fourth down pass from Jordan Talbot to Jesse Griswold gave the Pioneers a 18-13 lead heading into the halftime locker rooms.
Down to a team the Spartans had shut out a season ago, it would have been easy to let
“We had a nice talk at halftime and it was a talk of camaraderie, staying together and moving through the adversity,” Wilson said. “It really showed me a lot of the character that we have this year.”
That score would hold until midway through the third quarter when Carlson gave Monument a lead at 19-18 with his first rushing touchdown of the contest with 6:02 remaining in the quarter.
But Pathfinder struck right back with a touchdown and two-point conversion to hold the lead entering the fourth quarter, and the emboldened Pioneer sideline continued to taunt the Monument band as their victory grew nearer.
On the final play of the quarter, O’Brien was slow to get up, drawing attention from the on-site medical attendant and coaches, but he would return.
There were quite a few extended delays due to medical attention, most resulting from cramps.
“We need to do a lot better with conditioning,” Carlson said. “We hadn’t even had a full scrimmage yet, so you never know. So we need a lot more conditioning.”
Despite the aches and pains, the Spartans found their footing late to pull away for the win.
Monument took the lead back when Carlson took a bootleg around the right side and easily waltzed in for six, then promptly found Dylan Tinker for the two-point conversion to put the Spartans up for good.
Wilson commending his quarterback’s ability both to physically lead the Spartans down the field in that situation, but also for being able to rally the troops together both in-game and in Monument’s preparation.
“He’s a good leader,” Wilson said. “He’s very strong and he always seems to say and do the right things when it really counts.”
Carlson and O’Brien would each score in the game’s final minutes to make the final score what it was, but the Spartan defense made sure Pathfinder would not sniff the end zone again.
Junior Logan Mead forced and recovered his second fumble of the game, allowing the Spartans to put the game on ice. The rest of the defense stiffened, as well, disrupting the Pioneer offense so it never got going again.
The win was the first at home for Monument since the final game of 2016, ending a four-game losing skid. But more importantly, it gave the 2018 team confidence moving forward.
With so much turnover in both the coaching staff and the roster, it was difficult to see where the Spartans would be this season, both from the outside and in. But after game one, O’Brien sees things trending in a positive direction.
“Things are different,” O’Brien said. “But maybe it’s for the better.”
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