By Andrew Johnson

MONTAGUE – Most Montague football players get plenty of opportunities to compete in state playoff games, because the Wildcats almost always make the postseason.

But that hasn’t been the case for senior co-captain Johnny Monette, who missed a large part of the last two seasons with a series of nasty injuries.

In 2017 he tore his ACL, partially tore his MCL and shifted his meniscus in the first game and missed the rest of the season. Last year he broke his leg in Week 6 and missed three regular season games and four playoff games, before getting on the field for one play in Montague’s loss to Jackson Lumen Christi in the Division 6 state championship game.

“It was pretty bad after blowing out my ACL,” Monette said. “It was pretty gruesome. I went through six months of rehab and couldn’t move my toes.”

Monette, now finally healthy, had a very big game last Saturday in the Wildcats’ 48-14 regional victory over Sanford Meridian. The running back turned slot receiver caught eight passes for 107 yards and one touchdown in the win. On the season he has 569 receiving yards, 402 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Johnny Monette holds up the district title trophy for Montague after beating Ravenna. Photo/Tim Reilly

He’s excited about the next challenge, when Montague will meet Maple City Glen Lake in the Division 6 state semifinals at 1 p.m. at Clare High School, with the chance to make it back to the state finals for the second year in a row.

“It’s definitely a big thing for us,” Monette said. “A lot of guys who play in the state of Michigan never play in the semifinals. You can play all four years and never get to this point. We take pride in doing the hard work to get here, we’re so dedicated and want to have a great season.”

Monette admitted he thought about giving up football altogether after suffering the broken leg last season.

“I was wondering if football was worth it,” he said. “I want to be able to walk when I’m 40. I thought about it and talked with my family, who reminded me that I’ve been playing my whole life so I had to get out there this year, and I’m so happy I made that decision.”

When Monette takes the field for his very first state semifinal game on Saturday, he will be lined up as a slot receiver, rather than running back, which was his position at the start of the season.

He was moved by the coaching staff after the Wildcats lost a pair of close conference games to Oakridge and Ravenna this season. The coaches also installed sophomore Dylan Everett at running back, and he’s had some good games, including a 70-yard, two touchdown performance in the regional win on Saturday.

“We moved (Monette) after our two losses exposed some things,” said Montague Coach Pat Collins. “We needed more of a vertical threat, with someone who can get some yards after the catch in the flats, and he’s that kind of guy.”

Monette runs in motion before the snap in Montague’s game against Whitehall earlier this season. Photo/Leo Valdez

Monette said the move has worked out very well for him and the team.

“I think Dylan is a great running back,” he said. “I think he’s a better back than me, and he’s doing an amazing job. The coaches realized they could use me at slot more and I’ve gotten some good plays there. The move has really helped us go from two straight losses to this.”

Whether the Wildcats win or lose on Saturday, one thing will remain true about Monette, according to Collins.

“Sometimes football can be hard with injuries and things, but he’s the type of kid who is so tough it doesn’t matter,” the coach said. “He’s got a great family and you can tell through his character how he’s been raised. He shows it through the difficult times because he’s a leader and a captain. That’s what I’m proud of, and it’s more important than seeing him successful on the football field.”

The Wildcats will be facing a Maple City Glen Lake squad that has had a great season, but has also survived in the playoffs with some close victories.

The Lakers had an 8-1 regular season, blemished only by a 53-14 loss to Kingsley in Week 7.  In districts they defeated Lake City 30-19 and Harrison 38-30. In regionals last week, they squeaked out a 15-14 heart-stopping victory over Calumet.

“They have a comprehensive offense and defense,” Collins said. “They’ve been through some success and have been there, done that. They have multiple weapons. They play a little bigger and have different personnel groups. They’ll pose different looks that maybe you wouldn’t see against a basic style.”