Montague needs over time to slip past Shelby in key WMC football matchup

By Shawn Liverance
Local Sports Journal

The last two seasons, Shelby and Montague have played a pair of close games with Shelby winning both times.

So, it was no surprise that Friday night’s West Michigan Conference showdown was another nail biter.

This time, however, host Montague pulled out a thrilling 22-15 overtime win and handed Shelby its first loss of the season.

“This was exactly the kind of game we expected,” Montague coach Pat Collins said. “We knew it would be a close game and we were fortunate to make some plays at the end of the game.”

The win vaults Montague back into title contention as both the Wildcats and Shelby have 4-1 league records a game behind Oakridge, which sits atop the WMC conference standings with a 5-0 record with a trip to Shelby looming next week.

“This is a huge win for us,” Montague quarterback Brandon Moore said. “This gets us right back in the conference race.”

It looked as if the Tigers would make it three straight wins over Montague as they lined up for a potential game-winning field goal with 9 seconds left.

But, a bad snap never allowed Shelby kicker Andy Forier to get the attempt off and send the game into an overtime period, which Montague dominated.

On the Wildcats first play in overtime, Moore found Jacob Marsh on a 10-yard scoring strike and Wyatt Ford’s point after gave Montague a 7-point lead.

“We just executed the play and got it done,” Moore said. “We had run that same play a couple of times earlier in the night and it worked again in overtime.”

With the Wildcats holding the lead, it was up to their defense to keep the Tigers out of the end zone and they did just that.

Three straight runs netted the Tigers six yards, but on fourth down, Shelby quarterback Spencer Peters’ pass was intercepted by Montague’s Alex VanVleet to seal the victory for the Wildcats.

“I wasn’t real concerned by going on offense first because of our defense and the way they played all night,” Collins said. “We got the score and I told our defense to continue to be aggressive in overtime and we got the interception.”

Both defenses shined in a game that didn’t see many big plays from either offense.

One of the longest plays of the night resulted in the game’s first score as Peters found Austin Porter on a 33-yard scoring pass that staked Shelby to a 7-0 lead after one quarter.

A bad punt snap resulted in a Montague safety early in the second quarter that cut the lead to 7-2 and the Wildcats would capitalize on another Tigers miscue late in the second quarter to take an 8-7 halftime lead.

Montague’s Tristen Schultz recovered a fumble on the Shelby 25-yard line and the Wildcats cashed in when Moore scored on a 5-yard run two plays later.

“I thought our defense put good pressure on them all night,” Collins said. “That pressure led to a couple of turnovers, which we took advantage of.”

Although the Wildcats had a halftime lead, Collins was not happy with his offense in the first half.

“I was not happy with our offense in the first half,” Collins said. “We wanted to keep it simple in the second half and I was really pleased with our offensive line in the second half.”

That simple approach led to a long 80-yard drive for the Wildcats that culminated in Brandon Stine’s 5-yard scoring run that gave the Wildcats a 15-7 lead late in the third quarter.

The Tigers, who didn’t generate much offense after their first-quarter score, managed a seven-play drive that resulted in Nathan Lentz’s 25-yard run with 6:47 left in the final quarter.

Peters hit Devon Mussel on a two-point conversion pass that tied the game at 15-15 and would set up the Tigers potential game-winning drive.

Shelby took over on its own 36-yard line with 4:54 left and needed 13 plays before setting up its game-winning field goal attempt.

“The last snap on the field goal was a malfunction on our part,” Shelby coach Lorenzo Rodriguez said. “Our concentration level was not there and that is what happens.”

The Montague defense, for the most part, did a good job shutting down Shelby’s running attack by limiting Nathan Lentz and Forrest Courtright to 51 and 36 yards rushing, respectively.

“They had a good game plan and got to the edges on us,” Rodriguez said. “We prepared well, but just were not firing on all cylinders tonight.”

Peters finished 6-of-14 passing for 123 yards for the Tigers and Ben Schroeder led the defense with 14 tackles and Shane Kajtazi had an interception.

“It burns right now, but our kids will come back because we are a championship-caliber team,” Rodriguez said. “We will get ourselves back up because next Friday night against Oakridge it’s all on the line.”

Montague, which hosts Mason County Central next week, was led by Stine’s 118 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Moore rushed for 49 yards and was 10-of-15 passing for 62 yards.

Ford had 16 tackles to lead the Montague defense and Keenon Aylor had an interception.

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