By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Digging in after two forgettable possessions, Montgomery regained control against visiting Concord with three consecutive second-half scoring drives Friday night and advanced to the semifinal round of the North Coast Section Divison 2 football playoffs.
Montgomery ended the first half and opened the third period with drives that marched backward. Then the Vikings took advantage of a short field for a scoring drive and seized the momentum for the 41-22 win.
The foundation to the turn around was a determined defense that pressured Concord’s prolific passing game and stifled any comeback hopes for the Minutemen.
“They’re passing game is great. We just needed to pick up the intensity,” said Colton Silvers, a Montgomery defensive stalwart. “We brought the house.”
A sharper second half passing game bolstered by the recent addition of injured quarterback turned healthy receiver Elijah Higgs helped the Montgomery offense kick into a higher gear. Higgs’ deep corner touchdown catch put the Vikings ahead to stay.
“It was hard watching all those games. But it’s fun winning,” Higgs said.
A high-scoring game figured to favor Concord. Whether through the air or on the ground, the Minutemen have been among the Bay Area’s prolific prep offenses in recent years, and this season features another brand of playing fast, scoring in bunches.
Despite two interceptions, Concord led at halftime. But the visitors were never comfortable and did not have an answer for Montgomery’s spirited second half.
“We just didn’t play to our potential. We definitely wanted to make a few more rounds in the playoffs,” said Concord quarterback Mitch Daniels.
With the victory Montgomery gets the winner of today’s match up of Windsor at Casa Grande. Having suffered their only losses on the season to both teams, the Vikings are ready for a chance at redemption.
Never flashy yet always determined, Montgomery has found ways to win in the Vikings resurgence to prep football prominence this season.
The Concord contest featured a little bit of everything Montgomery has used to continue playing deep into the playoffs.
There have been games when Montgomery runs away from opponents. Logan Francavilla again was a force, carrying for 205 yards against Concord. Behind a pile-pushing Vikings line, Francavilla finds holes and shifts directions to keep plays alive.
Passing has been a complementary, but often effective offensive element. Higgs was the starter until sidelined by a shoulder separation in the North Bay League opener at Casa Grande. Montgomery has no drop off with backup R.J. Flores, who takes what defenses allow, as he did against Concord with 115 yards on 11 completions to six different receivers and no interceptions.
A sure tackling, disciplined defense has helped anchor Montgomery’s march to a now 10-win season, the definition of great success in football.
Montgomery’s four captains are senior linebackers led by top stoppers Henry Stelzner and Justin Perry.
Stout defense is what helped turn a close contest into a decisive win over Concord. Going to more one-on-one pass coverage while bringing pressure on the line, Montgomery frustrated Concord’s proficient passing game.
“We weren’t playing physical enough at the start,” said Silvers, one of Montgomery’s senior captains. “We thought we were the better team. We just needed to get together as a team. Our conditioning played a factor in the second half.”
After yielding control of the game clock and scoreboard to Concord in the first half, Montgomery seized the advantage in the second half.
Following the go-ahead scoring pass from Flores to Higgs, who gives Montgomery a truly deep receiving threat,the Vikings forced Concord to punt. The three-and-out sequence was significant as Concord converted three fourth-down plays to that point.
Then the Vikings went 51 yards for a score, and added a third consecutive touchdown following another Concord punt.
While the Minutemen had the more recent playoff pedigree, the Vikings are back among the best.
Concord is oh so familiar with playing Empire teams in the section playoffs. The Minutemen’s 2010 title came in an offensive showdown with Rancho Cotate. Concord then beat Rancho Cotate on the road to reach the 2011 title contest, where Windsor prevailed. Last season the Minutemen defeated Casa Grande, again on the road.
“If you want to be great you have to go out and beat North Bay teams,” said Concord coach Brian Hamilton. “Montgomery is a fantastic football team.”
Michael Coit can be reached at Mike.Coit@pressdemocrat.com.