Interceptions key Monessen's win over Imani Christian
A matchup between two of the WPIAL's most explosive offenses turned into a defensive struggle Friday night at Monessen's Memorial Stadium.
In the end, Monessen's defense stood taller in a 17-12 victory over Black Hills Conference foe Imani Christian.
Sophomore safety Irvin Green's third interception of the game, inside Monessen's 10-yard line, sealed the victory with less than a minute left.
“We kind of looked and thought they liked to throw the ball deep, so we deepened up a little bit (Friday),” Monessen coach Andy Pacak said. “They didn't really run well. We played a solid defensive game.”
Monessen (6-1, 6-1) forced six turnovers, including four interceptions of Imani Christian quarterback Khari Hicks, and came up with a crucial goal-line stop in the first half.
It took Monessen just three plays to take advantage of Imani Christian's first turnover.
Following a Hicks interception on the Saints' opening possession, quarterback Chavas Rawlins hit receiver Lavelle Rush for a 52-yard gain on the Greyhounds' first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Keith Davis scored from 5 yards to give Monessen the early lead.
“They went down and scored on us the first drive, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, what are we in store for here?' ” Imani Christian coach Harvey Smith said. “But my defense answered the bell. They stepped up after that.”
That 7-0 lead held for the rest of the first half, as each team turned it over twice more before halftime. Imani Christian (5-2, 5-2) had a chance to tie the score in the second half, but the Greyhounds stopped Imani running back Ron Brown for a loss on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
After a Monessen field goal in the third quarter, the Saints scored when Darryl Dean stripped the ball from Monessen running back RJ Small and raced 46 yards for a touchdown.
But the Greyhounds answered with a score of their own, as Rawlins found Javon Brown for a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. Rawlins finished with 165 yards passing.
The Saints weren't done, however. Troy Simon returned a fourth-quarter punt 48 yards to the Monessen 1. The Greyhounds stiffened, but Hicks managed to find Simon in the back of the end zone on fourth down.
Imani Christian got one more chance after stopping Monessen on fourth down just past midfield, but that's when Monessen's defense made its final play. Green picked off a deep pass from Hicks, and the Greyhounds ran out the clock for the victory.
“When we went for it on fourth down, we felt pretty confident we could hold them right there,” Pacak said.
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.