LAFAYETTE — If it seemed like the Monarch football team was a bit more emotional than usual after a regular-season win Thursday night, there’s a reason for it.
Twice this season, the Coyotes have lost games in the final seconds.
With their Front Range League battle with Horizon going back and forth on the rain-soaked turf at Warrior Stadium, it became increasingly apparent that this was going to be another one decided in the final minute.
This time, it was Monarch that instilled the heartbreak in a 29-22 win against the Hawks. Philip Bubernak scored the last of his four touchdowns with 27 seconds to play, allowing the Coyotes to snap a two-game losing streak and reignite some early-season fire.
“It looked like it was going to come down to the very last second and I’m genuinely glad it didn’t, finally” Coyotes guard Hugh Bent said after the Coyotes stopped Horizon near midfield as time expired. “That’s been rough as heck the last couple weeks. Every game is big, but this was an all-important win, obviously.”
The Coyotes (4-3, 2-3) had lost 7-2 to Poudre in Week 3, when they were stopped at the 3 as time ran out. Then they endured a 29-28 setback last week at Fossil Ridge when the SaberCats scored a late TD and won it with a two-point conversion.
“The truth is this: We’ve been snake-bitten in two games,” Monarch coach Phil Bravo said. “Poudre and Fossil Ridge beat us, buzzer beaters at the very end. This team could be 5-1 right now with a legitimate loss to Fairview. To come down to the wire and lose a third one like that would have made it tough for this team to recover.”
The Coyotes made sure it didn’t happen.
The funereal conditions fit into Monarch’s scheme, with the Coyotes’ approach far from finesse. Bubernak grinded his way to 147 yards on 34 carries and capped Monarch’s final four drives with scores.
These were no ordinary drives, as Monarch chewed up big chunks of possession by marching for scores in 18, 9, 14 and 10 plays. After Horizon tied it 22-22 with 4:09 to play on a 10-yard run by quarterback Ayden Karraker, the task was clear for the Coyotes offense.
Four minutes, go win a game. And the Coyotes did.
“It was really rewarding,” Bubernak said. “This whole year we’ve been able to drive at times, but we’ve never been able to finish it off. Four minutes left, I was confident, the O-line was confident, Zack Berohn was confident.
“It was just a huge game for us to get back on track.”
Bubernak carried eight times for 33 yards on the final drive, and Berohn connected with fullback Chad Sloan on an enormous 31-yard pass play that set up the Coyotes near the 20 with under two minutes to play.
Sloan also racked up 74 yards on the ground on 15 carries.
Horizon (3-4, 1-4) ran the ball effectively throughout, with tailback Dominick Castiglione netting 163 yards and two TDs and Karraker 84 yards and the late, tying score. Castiglione and Bubernak went toe-to-toe in the second half, with each back rushing for more than 100 yards after intermission.
But behind the fancy statistics was something Monarch needed much more: a victory in a close game.
“Getting over .500 and avoiding three losses in a row wasn’t on our minds,” Bravo said. “It was about getting our confidence back, because we’re not a bad football team. We’ve just made mistakes at the most inopportune times to put us at 4-3.”
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Monarch 29, Horizon 22
At Warrior Stadium
Horizon (3-4, 1-4) 0 7 8 7 — 22
Monarch (4-3, 2-3) 0 8 7 14 — 29
Horizon — Dominick Castiglione 3 run (Jayson Jones kick). Monarch — Philip Bubernak 1 run (Bubernak run).
Monarch — Bubernak 15 run (Trevor Elser kick). Horizon — Castiglione 24 run (Jacob Dinkel pass from Ayden Karraker).
Monarch — Bubernak 3 run (Elser kick). Horizon — Karraker 10 run (Jones kick). Monarch — Bubernak 3 run (Elser kick).
RUSHING — Horizon: Castiglione 20-163, Karraker 10-84, Wilson 8-36, Toledo 3-28, Dinkel 1-8. Monarch: Bubernak 34-147, Sloan 15-74, Berohn 5-9, Oliver 1-5.
PASSING — Horizon: Karraker 3-7-0-28. Monarch: Berohn 3-4-0-61
RECEIVING — Horizon: Strain 1-15, Tate 1-9, Castiglione 1-4. Monarch: Sloan 2-56, Stephens 1-5.