The Monticello High School Lady Buckaroos got what they wanted, some tough competition, when they traveled to Kayenta, AZ to participate in Monument Valley Invitational tournament.
“We got tested,” said Buckaroo coach Tony Esplin after the team got some great game experience, playing their way to a 5-3-1 record in nine matches over two days.
The Lady Bucks started the tournament with three wins in pool play, 25-21, 25-20 over Ganado, AZ; 25-18, 25-13 over Page, AZ; and 25-12, 25-11 over Hopi, AZ to run to a 14-0 season record.
The Lady Bucks finally met their match in Snowflake, AZ, who zipped the Bucks 12-25, 18-25, to give the girls their first taste of defeat this season.
Snowflake made it to the quarterfinals of the 2015 3A state volleyball tournament, a 32-team affair. Then the Bucks split with Tuba City, losing the first game 21-25, but bouncing back to take the second set 25-18, placing them as the second seed in the pool and earning a spot in the championship bracket.
There, the Bucks met the top seed Greenway of Phoenix. They are the 2015 Arizona 3A state champions. The Bucks gave the Demons all they wanted, but lost in two straight, 14-25, and 25-27.
“Greenway is a great team, but we played pretty tough in the second game,” said Esplin. Still having life in the two-loss tournament, the Bucks rebounded again to beat Kirtland Central, NM, 25-4, 20-25, and 17-15.
Continuing to persevere, the Lady Bucks downed a tough Monument Valley, AZ team, another 3A school, to set up a rematch with Snowflake in the quarterfinals.
The fine play continued as the Bucks gave the Lobos all they wanted before dropping the match, 22-25, 27-29, to end their tournament run.
The nine game set leaves the Bucks with a 16-3-1 record for the year. The Bucks return to region play this week, hosting Monument Valley, UT on Wednesday and a non-region battle Friday against the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers in Monticello.
The Bucks returned to the win column in impressive football fashion on September 23 in Parowan with a gritty 30-12 win over the Parowan Rams.
Monticello found their offensive game, too, on the back of Buck running backs Thomas Anderson and Talon Black. Anderson found his downhill gear behind his effective offensive line to rush for 116 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown and another touchdown on an 85 yard kickoff return to key the Buckaroo attack.
Black, who scored twice himself, did a little bit of everything, rushing, catching, and intercepting.
The Bucks had their best rushing night of the season when Black added 55 yards on six carries, with Shandon Bradford rushed for another 20 yards on five carries.
The ability to run set up the Buckaroo passing attack, as Brayson Wilcox completed six of ten on the night for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Both TD passes went to Black to help the Bucks earn an important region win. Black made it an all-around great night with two key interceptions that kept the Bucks defense in charge through the night.
After a scoreless first quarter, Parowan got the first lead of the night after an Anderson fumble was recovered by the Rams on the Buck 31-yard line.
The Rams then scored on a 26-yard pass play, missing the extra point to go up 6-0 at the 9:20 mark of the second quarter.
Anderson then ignited the Buckaroo night when he returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to bring the Bucks to a 6-6 tie.
Parowan marched right down the field again, only to see Black pick off one of their passes at the Buckaroo 10 yard line. The offense responded with their best drive of the season, mixing the run and pass to move the ball 90 yards to take a 12-6 lead.
Wilcox hooked up with Black on a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass on third down to put the Bucks up at halftime.
The Rams tied the score at 12 on their first second half possession, but it would prove to be the last score of the night for Parowan, while the Buck offense went wild.
The Bucks answered the Parowan TD again with a six play, 62-yard drive. After five straight rushes by Anderson got the Bucks to the 13-yard line, Wilcox and Black connected again on a 13-yard TD and the score was 18-12 after a missed PAT.
Wilcox directed the Bucks on two more long scoring drives in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Wilcox scored on the first drive on a QB sneak from two yards out to complete an eight-play, 73 yard drive to put MHS up by 12, 24-12.
Then, Wilcox lead the Bucks on a nine-play, 54 yard drive, with Anderson carrying the pigskin six times before scoring from three yards out and the Bucks finished with an exclamation point, 30-12.
Black led the Bucks in receiving with three catches for 59 yards, while Max Hedglin had two catches for 58 yards. Spencer Knudsen had one catch for ten yards in an effective passing night for MHS.
Paul DeAnda had a monster night on defense for the Bucks, making 13 tackles and two sacks. Anderson had 10 tackles to keep the Ram offense at bay.
Wilcox (6), Bradford (5), Tyler Draper (5) and Hedglin (4) also helped out the Buckaroo defensive charge. The win leaves the Bucks at 2-3 on the season as they prep for the winless (0-5) Altamont Longhorns on Friday in another road game.
Monticello placed fifth in the Wolf Creek Invitational XC meet in Pagosa Springs, CO last Saturday. Adam Bunker led the Bucks with a seventh place finish in the 56-man race in a time of 20:21.
Mancos won the team competition with Cuba, NM second. The Bucks continued their team effort with times close to each other. Brothers Ryan and Dylan Bird were 22nd and 23rd in 21:43 and 21:44. At 22:07, Zac Musselman was 27th and Justus Robison 28th in 22:15. Joseph Morrison finished 22 seconds later and Matt Bristol also ran well in his first season of cross country.
Kendall Harris led the short-handed Buckaroo girls team with a top ten finish. She completed the race in 25:13 to take the tenth spot. Kaitlyn Morrison, Phoebe Johnson, and Shania Begay are 33rd, 34th and 36th, but the girls didn’t place in the team competition because a team needs five runners to count.
This week, they head to Mancos for the annual Chicken Creek Challenge.