LAFAYETTE — After the Monarch football team graduated top tailbacks Alex Bradfield and Zach Bastres last year, Justin Kiss knew coming into the 2017 season the carries would be there for the taking.
Fortunately for the Coyotes, the depth at the position includes a number of kids that are eager to take advantage of every touch. The results? A shared attack with no single star and a 5-0 record heading into Thursday's Northern League opener against a hot Skyline squad.
Typically for the Coyotes so far, it's been a different back on every night taking control for the team, and it was Kiss's time to shine in a 292-yard, five-touchdown performance as MoHi squeaked past the Falcons, 52-42 at Spangenberg Field.
Seizing the opportunity when he sniffed the end zone, Kiss scored on runs of 7, 12, 4, 9 and 15 yards as Monarch improved to 6-0 and took their first step in the process of winning a league title.
"It's a committee, and it's a good committee. All of our backs are good and we know our responsibilities," Kiss said after his biggest game to date, which also gave him eight touchdowns for the season. "I got the numbers tonight, but obviously the wing on the other side is doing their job opening the holes. It's equally their night as well — we all put in the work."
"Our offensive line, we're finally getting into a rhythm with a stable offensive unit," added MoHi coach Phil Bravo. "Justin Kiss did well, but more importantly is our offensive line doing well."
It was every bit as wild as the score might indicate — a shootout that took place mostly through each team's ground work. Skyline's Jeremy Hollingsworth, easily one of the area's pleasant surprises this year, had 157 yards and four touchdowns, and his last two scores in the fourth quarter helped the Falcons come back to make it 49-42 with still more than 6 minutes to play.
Skyline went for an onsides kick that was recovered by Monarch, and the Coyotes were able to ride their running attack for a few more yards to get within field goal range. Tyler Lanphear's 38-yard field goal practically scraped the crossbar, but it gave MHS a two-score lead that ended up standing.
Ben Cole made sure of that by intercepting a Nate McGregor pass on Skyline's last possession — one of two turnovers for the Falcons. The other, a fumble after McGregor was sacked in the third quarter, gave the ball to Monarch at the Skyline 24 and Kiss made it count with the 9-yard bulldoze into the end zone to make it 35-21.
MoHi extended its lead to 49-28 but Skyline wasn't about to go away quietly.
The teams were tied at 21-21 at halftime, and a big reason was a Monarch defensive stop of Skyline in the final minute before the break. A fourth down run from McGregor got SHS to the Monarch 2, but the Falcons ran four times and were pushed back from that spot as the seconds ticked away.
Monarch took its first lead on the opening possession of the third quarter and kept it the remainder of play. But it never was easy.
"We knew it was going to be a long game and we knew whoever got that first big stop that it was going to change the momentum," Kiss said. "It kick started our team."
"We take what we did this week and we build off it because we know that's a good team year in and year out," Hollingsworth said. "We have things to improve on but we just have to roll into next week with the positives."
At Spangenberg FieldSkyline (5-1, 0-1)147714—42
Monarch (6-0, 1-0)6152110—52
Skyline — Jeremy Hollingsworth 3 run (Ben Kalisher kick). Monarch — Justin Kiss 7 run (kick failed). Skyline — Hollingsworth 8 run (Kalisher kick).
Monarch — Ricky Stimac 18 pass from CJ Schmanski (Stimac run). Skyline — Kyle West 35 pass from Nate McGregor (Kalisher kick). Monarch — Kiss 12 run (Tyler Lanphear kick).
Monarch — Kiss 4 run (Lanphear kick). Monarch — Kiss 9 run (Lanphear kick). Monarch — Kiss 15 run (Lanphear kick). Skyline — West 23 pass from McGregor (Kalisher kick).
Monarch — Cole Polluconi 1 run (Lanphear kick). Skyline — Hollingsworth 3 run (Kalisher kick). Skyline — Hollingsworth 18 run (Kalisher kick). Monarch — Lanphear 38 field goal.
RUSHING — Skyline: Jeremy Hollingsworth 29-157, Nate McGregor 15-89, Kyle West 2-(minus-1). Monarch: Justin Kiss 25-292, Max Laychak 6-27, Cole Polluconi 10-64, Ricky Stimac 3-31, CJ Schmanski 1-(minus-7).
PASSING — Skyline: McGregor 12-19-1-179. Monarch: Schmanski 4-5-0-84.
RECEIVING — Skyline: Jack Wathen 7-62, West 5-117. Monarch: Ben Cole 1-39, Stimac 1-18, Polluconi 1-24, Laychak 1-3.