COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The starters on the Monroe City football team remembered the bitter loss in last year's Class 1 state title game to Penney.
Newcomers to the Panthers, as well as returning players in bigger roles this season, helped erase that memory by beating Ste. Genevieve Valle 12-7 on Saturday in this year's Class 1 state title game at Faurot Field.
Some of those new players had to replace voids left by some of Monroe City's best players last season. All-state lineman Josh Underhill graduated, as well as 1,000-yard backs in Cody Porter and Logan Minter.
"We realized we had some really good players leaving us, and that meant new guys had to step up," junior running back Zach Osborn said. "That's big shoes to fill. But we got it done."
The biggest player to make an impact was senior fullback Cole Pennewell, who became the Clarence Cannon Conference Offensive Player of the Year. In the title game against Penney, he had just five carries for 25 yards. However, he had a game-high 148 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown against Valle. He also blocked a punt in the third quarter to set up Gage Bottoms 6-yard go-ahead touchdown run.
Defensive back Nehemiah Batsell wasn't even on the roster last year. The junior transferred to Monroe City during the playoffs last season, and he had to wait until this season to suit up for the Panthers. He recorded two interceptions in the title game, including one to take away a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Defensive back Dawson Shively had a lackluster championship game last year, but he had two interceptions against Valle. His second one with 26 seconds remaining in regulation sealed Monroe City's first title in 21 years.
"It was important for me to have a big game," Shively said. "This was my last game."
Linemen Brad Cheek and Max Hays were the top tacklers for Monroe City in the title game as they combined for nine tackles. Cheek had a tackle for loss, while Hays assisted on a tackle for loss and forced a fumble against Valle.
Neither Cheek nor Hays played against Penney in the title game.
"All the guys just sold out on what we're doing," Shively said. "It was all worth it in the end."
They've also paved the way for more success, even though Monroe City is losing 11 seniors.
"Those kids laid a blueprint for what we had to do to be successful," Monroe City coach David Kirby said. "Those younger kids have some great role models."