A preview of the Week 7 showdown between No. 9 Pontiac and No. 3 Monticello

    Pontiac achieved a couple of goals with last week’s win at Olympia. The Indians are guaranteed a playoff bid and the Tribe will finish with a record above .500.
    There are still some other goals that Pontiac’s newly ranked football team is shooting for, including winning an Illini Prairie Conference championship. A big step toward that goal can be taken on Friday night as the Class 4A ninth-ranked Indians host Monticello, ranked third in Class 3A. Both are sitting at 6-0 as the lone unbeatens in the IPC.
    “This week is one of those things where you can’t win it this week, but you can lose it this week,” PTHS head coach Alan Kuchefski said Wednesday. “We’re looking forward to playing a 6-0 team that’s highly ranked. We can’t count on any help to beat Monticello if we can’t do it ourselves.”
    The Sages tied for the IPC title last season and coming into this season was considered the heavy favorite. The margin of victories are what most would expect with a dominating 6-0 team, but Monticello has not played a team with a winning record at the time of the game until this week.
    The closest game for Monticello was a 35-6 win over St. Thomas More, who has not lost since that Week 3 game.
    “I am fairly happy with our consistency of effort so far,” MHS head coach Cully Welter said. “We have definite room for improvement in a number of places but we are moving in the right direction.”
    Monticello is a scoring machine to this point, and most of it has come in the first half of games. The big play has been a key weapon as the Sages have shown a variety of ways to get the ball into the end zone.
    Braden Snyder is the quarterback. He has thrown for 1,216 yards on 79 of 112 passing. This includes 14 touchdowns, one being an 88-yard play last week. There are four primary targets in receivers Asher Bradd (26-44-4) and Devin Graham (19-310-5), running back Alek Bundy (13-185-3) and receiver Luke Stringer (12-138-3).
    Chris Brown is the leading rusher with 367 yards and 3 TDs on 32 carries. Bundy has rushed for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns on 31 trips and Snyder will keep it, having done so 43 times for 199 yards and 7 touchdowns.
    “Their offensive staff is good at finding mismatches,” Kuchefski said. “They’re giving you a way different look. They can run the ball, they can throw the ball more so than any other team I’ve seen so far. That offers us a challenge.”
    The defense seems to be solid with two interceptions returned for scores and nine fumble recoveries out of 15 opponent fumbles.
    There have been three punts returned for scores by Bradd, as well.
    Kuchefski said the Sages will provide different looks on defense. He pointed out that he was taken by surprise last year and did not respond well. He is more prepared this time around.
    “Defensively, we’ve been solid all year; we’re stout up front, our defensive ends just keep getting better and better,” Kuchefski said. “Our linebacking corps is solid.”
    Pontiac’s numbers aren’t as gaudy but the Indians have played, by virtue of opponents wins, a tough schedule to this point. This includes defeating Prairie Central and St. Joseph-Ogden — both unbeaten at the time of the matchups — thus far.
    Monticello will take on Prairie Central next week and then face St. Joe-Ogden in Week 9.
    “In looking at the six games as whole, offensively, we’re doing a great job of taking care of the football,” Kuchefski said. “We’re having a pretty good balance of running and throwing the football.
    Austin Norman is the leading rusher with 782 yards and Gavin Bauknecht has churned out 293. Schuler has thrown for 583 yards on 35 of 58 passing for a team that hasn’t had to throw much.
    “I think most people think Pontiac is just a pound the ground type of team. They are obviously very good at running right at you, however, they have a good balance of skill players,” Welter said. “The offensive line is excellent and I am impressed with both backs, however, they can also beat you with the passing game. They have capable receivers and the quarterback is a dual threat.
    This game will be a battle of skills. Line play will be important, but the defenses will be tested and it will be a matter of adjusting properly.
    Pontiac has faced stronger tests that Monticello to this point, but the Sages are experienced and very talented. They will be tested over the final three weeks starting with the Indians.
    This should be a good game with a lot on the line as the winner will have the inside track to the conference championship.