Monroe Catholic Football books their tickets to the state playoffs
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -
Heading into the 2020 season, the Monroe Catholic Rams brought in a new quarterback and a new coaching staff with new playbooks. With the cohesion on both sides of the ball, one would think this team has been playing together for years.
For many of the seniors, that is the case, grinding out the last four season together, while for other seniors, they were quickly welcomed and accepted into the program, even if it was just one year. No matter the journey, all of them celebrated senior night and a 36-0 victory over the Eielson Ravens Friday.
With the win, the Rams closed out the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record, but more importantly, they secured a spot in the Division III State Playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“Monroe football has never been like this,” said senior Jack Snow, who played all four years of high school football with the Rams.
The Rams earned a bye week for the first round, where they will keep an eye on Houston versus Nikiski on October 10. The following Saturday, Monroe will host the winner at Kiwanis Field behind the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
It was a ‘win and you’re in' scenario for the Rams, and they left little to question. Senior Garren Nicholson opened up the scoring early in the first quarter when he rumbled and stumbled his way into the end zone for six points. Monroe’s stifling defense didn’t budge against the Ravens, as Eielson had few plays on the opposing team’s side of the field. It was Monroe’s third shutout of the season, after blanking Valdez twice earlier in the year.
Quarterback Shaun Conwell, in his first year with the program, found an open Carter Barney for a score before tossing another touchdown to Tyler Moore to make it a three possession game by halftime. Nicholson would go on to score two more times in the second half to put the game out of reach.
“It has been a very interesting one, that is all I’m going to say,” said Nicholson, who has been with the program since his freshman year. “Usually I have to pick up a lot of the slack on offense and defense, but this year, I get to rely on my team a lot more and that makes me happy.”
The combination of veteran leadership of players like Nicholson and the talented new additions, Monroe made history twice this season. On September 19, the Rams defeated Eielson for the first time in program history. The following weekend, they took down Division II’s West Valley in the two schools' first-ever meeting on the football field.
“Heart,” Conwell said of their accomplishments. “They’re very welcoming, it is a bond I have never really had before.”
“This team welcomed me with welcoming arms and they gave me a spot. I worked hard for my spot, but they just welcomed me with welcoming arms,” added senior Malachi Brooks, who joined Monroe along with Conwell this year.
Monroe has put an emphasis on welcoming players to the team, even if they’re not from the area, like senior Davie Smith.
“It definitely means a lot, I am really glad that they welcomed me in even though I’m from Healy," Smith said. "I am definitely a big part of their team now.”
A welcoming atmosphere has propelled the Rams to the state playoffs under first year head coach Kyle Allison. It will be their first appearance in seven years, when they finished runner-up to Nikiski.
Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.