Prep Football

Monroe City's high-octane offense continues to improve

Monroe City vs. South Shelby Class 1 District 5 championship game Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, at Lankford Field in Monroe City, Mo.
Phil Carlson 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 9, 2017 12:15 am

MONROE CITY, Mo. -- When the schedule entered the postseason, the Monroe City football team has been scoring at will.

The 56-26 victory in the Class 1 District 5 title game over South Shelby was the third straight game Monroe City scored 50 or more points. The Panthers are averaging 56 points per game in the postseason after scoring 56 against Mark Twain and 62 against Louisiana.

"We're moving pretty good right now," junior running back Zach Osborn said. "Right now, I don't think many people could stop our offense."

That's because Monroe City has multiple weapons to carry the ball.

Osborn leads the top-ranked Panthers with 1,308 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Senior fullback Cole Pennewell has churned out 1,109 yards and also 18 touchdowns. Quarterback Blake Hays and running back Gage Bottoms are also capable of carrying the ball, and wide receiver Nehemiah Batsell has also lined up in the backfield.

Monroe City has used that to its advantage in the postseason to reach the Class 1 quarterfinals against Westran this Saturday.

"That plays a huge factor in postseason," Osborn said. "It makes it harder for defenses to defend because they can't just key on Cole and I."

The Panthers got even more dangerous in the district title game.

With Pennewell battling an illness that limited him to just four carries, Keenan Batsell showed he's capable of 10-plus carries in a game.

The sophomore fullback, who's spent most of the season playing junior varsity, got varsity snaps in place of Pennewell. Batsell responded with rushed for 122 yards on 15 carries along with a 56-yard touchdown run.

"We knew he was a kid that's going to develop into a pretty good back," Monroe City coach David Kirby said. "He got an opportunity and that happened to be in the districts. Keenan really played well and did a good job."

Hays admitted feeling nervous knowing Pennewell wasn't 100 percent. Batsell calmed those nerves.

"Keenan dominated at the junior varsity level, and we knew he was the next man up," Hays said. "He really stepped up. He's the type of guy that can find gaps and hit them hard."

Adding another player in the backfield is only positives as Monroe City tries to make another run to the Class 1 state championship game.

"It's a great luxury to have, and we're really fortunate to have that," Kirby said. "The kids understand that on any given night it can be their night. We aren't flashy with a spread offense.

"Our kids aren't going to rush for 2,000 yards because we do have a lot of people and we do try to spread the offense and make it hard on other teams to key on one person."

That will give Monroe City at advantage the deeper it goes in the postseason.

"I don't think you see too many Class 1 teams with multiple threats," Hays said. "We kind of have that this year, and we're lucky to have that. We'll continue to play to our strengths."