Unspoken Words: Without talking about last year's title game, Kirby guides Monroe City to crown

Monroe City coach David Kirby rallies his players late in their Class 1 state championship against Valle Catholic Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Phil Carlson1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 2, 2017 2:20 pm Updated: Dec. 2, 2017 11:25 pm

MONROE CITY, Mo. -- A ringing endorsement let David Kirby know he was in for a special season.

During the offseason at a 7-on-7 camp, the Monroe City football coach crossed paths with Jim Unruh, the offensive coordinator at West Hancock who also won several state titles with the Carthage and Illini West football teams.

Kirby wanted Unruh's opinion of this season's Panthers.

"I asked him what he looked for in those really good Carthage teams," Kirby said. "He went, ‘Man, you've got a pretty good group. I think you guys can win it.' Here's Coach Unruh saying that."

It was the first instance Kirby believed Monroe City could not only get back to the Class 1 state championship game but could win it after suffering a 47-14 loss to Penney the year before.

With a roster loaded with title game experience coming back, Kirby knew it was possible to return to the title game. He needed to make sure the players didn't lose focus of their goal. To do that, Kirby and the Panthers made a rule -- no one talked about last year's championship game.

Behind the scenes, however, they were eager to get back.

"We all were," Kirby said. "We wanted to get back there. That was the thing. We had to tell ourselves we had to stay focused as well. If we're good enough to get through the regular season, maybe we're good enough to get through districts.

"We really made a conscious effort to not look past anybody, and I think that helped everyone stay on the same page."

There was only one bump along the way. Kirby thought his team was looking past Centralia.

"We knew the Palmyra game was coming, and there were a couple moments we weren't as sharp as we should," he said. "We just needed to relax and bring it back in."

Monroe City rolled through the regular season by beating opponents by an average of 27.2 points per game. The closest game was a 22-20 victory over Palmyra in the regular-season finale.

"It woke us up," Kirby said. "We did some things uncharacteristically in that game with fumbles and penalties. Palmyra came out really physical and forced us into that, and it made us uncomfortable.

"We needed that game to get us ready."

After the teams finished their postgame prayer huddle, Palmyra coach Kevin Miles told Monroe City to go win a state championship.

Six weeks later, Monroe City was lifting the state trophy for the third time in program history and first time since 1996.

"(Palmyra) showed us what kind of football we have to play to win a title," Kirby said. "Lo and behold, that's what we ended up doing."



017 -- David Kirby, Monroe City

2016 -- David Kirby, Monroe City

2015 -- Kevin Krietemeyer, Unity-Payson

2014 -- Kevin Miles, Palmyra

2013 -- Kevin Miles, Palmyra

2012 -- Brad Dixon, Central

2011 -- Tom Little, Brown County

2010 -- Jim Unruh, Illini West

2009 -- Rick Little, Quincy

2008 -- Jim Unruh, Illini West

2007 -- Matt Smith, Clark County

2006 -- Mark St. Clair, Hannibal

2005 -- Kent O'Laughlin, South Shelby

2004 -- Tom Little, Brown County

2003 -- Don Bigley, Pittsfield

2002 -- Jim Unruh, Carthage

2001 -- Mark St. Clair, Hannibal

2000 -- Par Pitts, Palmyra

1999 -- Jim Unruh, Carthage

1998 -- Tony Merryman, Pleasant Hill

1997 -- Dale Labuary, Monroe CIty

1996 -- Dale Labuary, Monroe City

1995 -- Jim Unruh, Carthage

1994 -- Bill Connell, QND

1993 -- Tom Gramates, Mark Twain

1992 -- Dale Labuary, Monroe City

1991 -- Will Bavery, Rushville

1990 -- John Morris, South Shelby

1989 -- Gary Brickman, Unity

1988 -- Jeff Wright, Mark Twain

1987 -- Dale Labuary, Monroe City

1986 -- Dean Cappel, Quincy

1985 -- Jim Repplinger, Hamilton

1984 -- Ken Miller, Carthage

1983 -- Bob Winstead, QND

1982 -- Jim Henry, Brown County

1981 -- Dave Bennett, Pittsfield

1980 -- Jeff White, Knox County

1979 -- Bob Steinman, Carthage

1978 -- Don Flowers, Pleasant Hill

1977 -- Jim Repplinger, Hamilton