MONTAGUE — The students' chants of "we're so flashy" told the story Saturday for the Montague Wildcats, who played defense with attitude and abandon in rolling past Sanford Meridian 48-14 for their second straight regional title.
The Wildcats had never won a regional at home, and when Sanford Meridian running back Brady Solano commented in an interview earlier this week that Montague was a "flashy" team, it was a relatively mild shot across the bow that the 'Cats took as a mantra.
"At practice, that's all you heard, we're flashy," Montague wide receiver Johnny Monette said. "We used it as our own personal motivation. We took what was coming against us and turned it against them."
The 'Cats were spectacular on defense, and Sanford Meridian didn't run a play in Montague territory until late in the third quarter with Montague already ahead 34-0.
"They had a little extra fire in them today," Montague coach Pat Collins said. "Obviously (winning) a regional title at home, we have not done that on this surface. That's a big deal for the kids and I'm proud of them for that. The defense came out with an extra swag today, due to, you know."
Collins' wry acknowledgment of Montague's self-made fuel underscored the statement the Wildcats made on the field.
The game began with two three-and-outs and two bad punts totaling less than 15 yards, twice setting the Wildcats up at the Meridian 33. Both ensuing possessions were touchdowns, the first on a long pass to Brennan Schwarz on the Wildcats' initial play from scrimmage and the second a short scoring run by Dylan Everett.
Montague scored again on its third drive, taking advantage of a Sam Smith interception to go up 20-0 on a 17-yard screen pass touchdown from Drew Collins to Tugg Nichols. A blocked punt later in the half by Schwarz set Montague up at the 8-yard line and turned into another easy score, on a short run by Collins.
The Wildcat offense was on point throughout the game, its only real misstep an interception inside the Meridian 10 on a pass that probably should have been caught. Things have been smooth for the 'Cats ever since they moved Monette to the slot and made Everett their every-down back.
"The offense has some identity, and we're getting the ball to different people all over the field, from left to right, high and low, using the whole field and using all our bodies," Collins said. "That's been important. The offensive line has stepped up big and become a better line as we've gone on, so that's helped us a lot as well.
"The fun part for coaches is to watch them grow and develop. The goal is to get the most out of them that you possibly can. We saw a lot of potential at the beginning of the year, and we feel like we're starting to tap into that a little bit."
Drew Collins made his best throw to start the second half, connecting with a wide-open Monette in perfect stride for the clinching score from 61 yards. Monette's biggest worry on the play was not to drop the ball.
"All you have running through your mind is, don't drop it," Monette said. "If you drop it, it's all on you, so you can't drop it. That was going through my head. Then I caught it and ran down the sidelines."
With the win, the 'Cats advanced to face Glen Lake, 15-14 winners over Calumet in another regional game Saturday. The semifinal contest will be played at Clare next Saturday at 1 p.m.
But for now, Montague was celebrating.
"It feels amazing to be able to end my high school career as a Montague Wildcat on our home field and making history and winning our first regional championship (here)," Monette said. "It's like no other feeling."