LAFAYETTE -- With an opportunity to forever etch its name into school lore, the Monarch football team resorted to what it does best.
Desperately needing to chew the clock Saturday against explosive Pueblo West, the Coyotes embarked on a 23-play drive that nearly ate up the entire fourth quarter.
When Ethan Marks scored his second touchdown of the day to cap it, the Coyotes had all but sealed a 14-6 win against the top-seeded Cyclones in the Class 4A semifinals at delirious Warrior Stadium.
That happened on the next play, when Jamie Falloon's designed short, pop-up kick was mishandled by the Cyclones and Monarch recovered.
"It was definitely what we're all about," Coyotes guard Levi Ensign said. "We'll take 23-play drives all day over a big play."
Coach Phil Bravo's Coyotes (12-1) parlayed their epic drive into a trip to the championship game against Denver South (Saturday, Sports Authority Field at Mile High) after the Rebels knocked off Mesa Ridge 38-22 in the other semifinal.
"We didn't think it would take that long, but that really actually helped us in the long run," Marks said. "Those are the types of drives we live for."
Monarch handed Pueblo West (12-1) its first loss of the season and prevented Cyclones running back Derek Jackson from setting the state's single-season rushing record. Jackson rushed for 194 on 30 carries, including a 79-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
But the Coyotes held him to a reasonable four yards a carry other than the breakaway and denied him the 267 he needed to break the record of Myles Smith (3,416 yards for 8-man Cheyenne Wells in 2003).
"He's a great athlete," Monarch linebacker Peter Mitchell said. "But we just rallied to him."
Jackson, who finished with 3,343 yards, posted the second-highest total among 11-man players to Jason Stout (3,387 at Centaurus in 1996).
That is significant because Stout is now Monarch's tailbacks coach.
Stout had to be proud of his star pupil. Marks churned for 164 yards on a workhorse-like 41 carries, including a 20-yard TD in the first.
On the clinching drive that spanned more than 10 minutes, Marks carried 18 times -- that's right, 18 carries on one drive -- for 59 yards and picked up five of the Coyotes' seven first downs on the drive.
Three came on fourth-down plays.
"It's nice to block for a running back like Marks," Ensign said. "He just runs hard all the time, and that's all you can ask for."
When Monarch recovered the muffed kickoff with about one minute to play with the Cyclones out of timeouts, the public address announcer said Mitchell made the recovery. A few players thought it was Braden Pape.
Even Mitchell didn't have a definitive answer.
"It was either me or Colin Hart," he said. "We both had our hands on it."
That matters little now. In reaching the third title game in the program's history, the Coyotes avenged a 2007 championship-game loss to the Cyclones and have put themselves in position to join the 2002 team as the only football champions in school annals.
Pueblo West is infamous for performing onside kicks every time, but the Cyclones only kicked off twice. Monarch recovered to begin the game and the Cyclones got the other after Jackson's touchdown made it 7-6. Neither team cashed in the prime field position.
More pressing for the Cyclones was their kicking game. In addition to having their extra point blocked, they badly missed potential go-ahead field goals from 28 and 25 yards to spoil solid drives.
"We were inside the 10 a couple times and didn't get any points out of it," lamented Pueblo West coach Monte Pinkerton. "But that's a heck of a defense. They have a heck of a team and we knew it was going to be a dogfight. We knew we had to take every opportunity we had to score points and we didn't do that."
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Monarch 14, Pueblo West 6
At Warrior Stadium
Pueblo West (12-1) 6 0 0 0 -- 6
Monarch (12-1) 7 0 0 7 -- 14
Monarch -- Ethan Marks 20 run (Jamie Falloon kick).
Pueblo West -- Derek Jackson 79 run (kick blocked).
Monarch -- Marks 3 run (Falloon kick).
First downs 13 15
Rushes-yards 43-224 54-195
Passing yards 11 11
Comp-Att-Int 1-4-0 2-3-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-20 0-0
RUSHING -- Pueblo West: Jackson 30-194, Drury 6-30, Bass 6-19, Clough 1-3; Monarch: Marks 41-164, Soole 6-22, Watson 5-5, Pape 1-2, Drury 1-2.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) -- Pueblo West: Drury 1-4-0, 11 yards; Monarch: Watson 2-3-0, 11 yards.
RECEIVING -- Pueblo West: Mendicino 1-11; Monarch: Dorsey 1-9, Pape 1-2.