By Craig Beilfuss

REED CITY – The defending Division 6 state champion Montague Wildcats set the tone from the beginning in their district final matchup with Reed City on Friday.

The Wildcats jumped out of the gate fast to come away with a key road win over Reed City, 35-22 to claim another district championship.

Montague (8-3) awaits the winner of Saturday afternoon’s contest between Lansing Catholic and Millington before it will know its destination for next weekend.

The Wildcats scored on their first two offensive possessions.

“It was huge way for us to start the game,” said Montague coach Justin Dennett, on his teams quick offensive explosion.

“We felt like we were prepared for whatever Reed City was going to do. I knew we could run the ball against them, but I thought we would have to be a little more balanced, although the passing game did open up.”

Montague traveled 65 yards on 11 plays on their opening drive, scoring on a 2 yard run by senior running back Dylan Everett at the 7:53 mark. Kicker Andrew Kooi, who made good on the first of his five PAT’s for the evening, giving the Wildcats a quick 7-0 lead.

The Wildcat defense forced the Coyotes to punt on their first offensive possession, with a three and out.

The Montague offense wasted little time finding the endzone on its second possession, scoring in four plays on a 51 yard TD pass from Kooi to Tugg Nichols, with 4:12 remaining in the first quarter, giving the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.

The Coyotes managed to get on the board in the second quarter, taking advantage of a Wildcat shanked punt.

Three plays later, the Coyotes were on the board thanks to a 5 yard TD run by Nick Wirgau. Reed City failed to convert the extra two point conversion and Montague held a 14-6 lead.

Montague wasted little time putting some distance between themselves and the Coyotes.

The Wildcats went 68 yards in six plays and scored on a 9 yard TD pass from Kooi to Colton Blankstrom. The score was set up by a 63 yard run by Everett, prior to the touchdown. Montague led 21-6 with 7:25 remaining in the first half.

Reed City answered on a long time consuming drive, as they went 80 yards on 10 plays and scored on a 3 yard run by Noah Morgan. The Coyotes converted the extra two point conversion and narrowed the gap to 21-14 with only 1:40 remaining in the first half.

Rather than running out the clock in the first half, Montague head coach Justin Dennett decided to pull out all the stops and his Wildcat offense responded accordingly.

Montague took over at its own 39 yard line and managed to find the endzone with nine seconds left in the first half, scoring on a 21 yard pass play from Kooi to Paul Olson, giving Montage a 28-14 halftime lead.

“We practice that two minute drill in practice every week,” said Montague head coach, Justin Dennett. “The guys didn’t panic and when you look back at it, it sealed the game for us.”

The Coyotes made the game interesting though in the third quarter, when they scored on a 25 yard run by Noah Morgan. Reed City converted the two point conversion, cutting the Montague lead down to 28-22, entering the fourth quarter.

The Montague defense made two key stops on fourth down plays by the Coyotes and the Wildcats put the finishing touches on winning the district championship scoring with :44 left on a 23 yard run by Everett.

Montague manged 317 total yards of offense while Reed City managed 300 yards in total offense.

Everett rushed for a game-high 197 yards on 29 carries. He also scored a pair of TD’s.

“He (Everett) was our workhorse tonight,” said Dennett. “It was a nice way to set the tone for the night, right off the bat with the rushing yardage.”

Kooi connected on 7-of 14 passes for 127 yards, while tossing for 3 TD’s.

Defensively, the Wildcats were led by Isac Jarka with 9 tackles. He was followed by teammates Colton Blankstrom and Hayden McDonald who each chipped in with 8 tackles.