Monticello won a football game 36-0 Friday night, improving the Sages’ record to 6-0 and securing a playoff birth for the eighth straight season.
But that’s not the story.
Junior tailback Lucas Lieb ran hard, finishing with 127 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a 13-yard touchdown.
But that’s not the story.
Senior wide receiver Nathan Graham made an acrobatic, leaping catch near the pylon for Monticello’s first touchdown.
But that’s not the story. The story is what followed.
Josh Scott, a 1996 Monticello graduate and former member of the football team, was in attendance; a rare occurrence because Scott is now paralyzed from the neck down after suffering an injury in a single-car accident in December after his spring graduation from MHS.
“He bumped his head,” his mother Cindy Striegel described it simply.
Scott can no longer speak and receives around-the-clock care in Bement. He is highly susceptible to catching pneumonia, so it’s difficult for him to see a game in person.
In fact, it had been more than five years since Scott laid his eyes on a live Monticello game. And the Sages made sure he wouldn’t forget it.
After Graham pulled down the catch and the official threw his arms up signaling a touchdown, the Sages gathered for a brief celebration before Monticello’s senior captain sprinted off the field of play with the ball to where Scott was sitting in the concourse behind the north goalpost.
The ten other players on offense followed and surrounded Scott with high fives and pats on the shoulder as the game ball sat in his lap.
Like many of the fans, the officials were confused as to what was happening and called a reluctant delay of game penalty on Monticello. Casey-Westfield head coach Tom Monken declined the penalty, cementing the moment of sportsmanship and kindness on both sides of the field.
“Before the game we were thinking of how we could give to him,” Graham said. “We decided right before the game that we were going to give the first touchdown to him.
“It was just a good thing to give back to him because he’s such a good supporter. It’s hard for him to come out here to see the games. I know that meant a lot to him, to give him that ball. I’m sure he feels great. Something little can change his whole day.”
Cully Welter was in contact with Scott’s family to make the trip possible. The Monticello head coach is in his eighth year and has helped the team develop a strong connection with Scott.
“He hadn’t been to a game in awhile as far as I knew,” Welter said. “We’ve communicated because he’s always watched the game films in previous years. And then last year we got him a jersey (with his former number) to wear.
“We were going to have the team acknowledge him before the game, but then Coach (Mike) Allen thought if we score a touchdown, why don’t we give him the game ball? That’s how that came about.”
Scott and his family then moved to the corner of the field, just off the grass where Monticello runs off and into the locker room. Scott, his mother and brother, Wil Striegel, watched the remainder of the first half near the same sideline on which Scott used to stand – when he wasn’t on the field lined up at outside linebacker that is.
“I remember you being way bigger out there,” Wil told Scott. “These are little kids.”
Scott’s two main interests during high school were football and “girls,” Cindy joked. “He’d sit around somewhere and five of six girls would come up straightaway.”
One of Scott’s former coaches, Ron Nolte, still visits him every Wednesday, and has for 20 years. He, too, was by Scott’s side when he received the game ball from Graham.
“It’s icing on the cake to be treated so special,” Cindy Striegel said. “We’re really honored.”
And whether it was a coincidence or designed by a higher power, Graham caught the touchdown in the best place possible – the west corner of the north end zone – to make the best moment possible.
That fact didn’t skip by Welter.
“That’s probably providence right there that it happened that way because I can’t imagine if we have to run all the way down (the field),” he said. “I think that’s what it’s supposed to be about though. One of the things we were upset with tonight is that you get an opportunity to play and it felt like we were kind of walking through things. You know, you don’t get this opportunity very much. And here’s a guy who’s gone through some very serious adversity and was an integral part of a very successful football team a few years back.
“It’s just nice for our kids to have an appreciation for him and to think outside of themselves.”