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Monroe Central blanks Bridgeport

MARTINS FERRY — Monroe Central has a rich, proud football tradition. However, the Seminoles have fallen upon some tough times in recent years and taken their lumps. Now they are delivering them.

Saturday night on the artificial surface inside the Dave Bruney Football Complex, Monroe Central (2-0) scored touchdowns five different ways — all in the first half — in rolling past error-prone Bridgeport 48-0. The mercy-rule was in play the entire second half.

The lop-sided victory marked the second consecutive whitewashing by the Seminoles defense. They blanked Union Local 21-0 in the opener.

Monroe Central reached the end zone via an opening kickoff return by Dillon Lincoln; a pair of Alex Kilburn runs; a pass from Malachi Rose-Burton to Wyatt Young; a 1-yard run by Rose-Burton; a 30-yard interception return by Talin Babcock; and an 85-yard punt return from Young.

“We played well in all facets of the game. We did a lot of things well,” second-year Monroe Central head coach Josh Ischy said. “We played super on special teams. Defensively, we had our second straight shutout, and offensively, we put some points on the board.

“I can’t remember the last time we had back-to-back shutouts. We’re tackling well. We’re playing the ball well,” Ischy praised.

The fans hadn’t even settled into their seats when the visitors took control … exactly 12 seconds as Lincoln fielded the ball at his own 18 and went untouched to paydirt. Garet Cramer booted the first of two PATs.

Sophomore Michael Bunning got the ball right back for the Seminoles with the first of his two interceptions in the game, returning it to the Bulldogs’ 13. He now has four on the season.

One play later, Kilburn bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out for a 13-0 reading after the two-point conversion failed.

Bunning picked off another Bridgeport aerial later in the first quarter to setup another Monroe Central score, this one coming on a 9-yard pass from Rose-Burton to Young. The same duo connected on the two-point conversion as the margin grew to 21-0.

“A case of a kid stepping up and making plays. He’s what we call a playmaker,” Ischy said of the 5-7, 130-pound Bunning. “He shows up on game night and makes the plays. Nothing flashy. He won’t wow you in the weightroom or with his speed, but he’ll make plays.”

Monroe Central added 27 second-quarter tallies to complete the scoring.

“I’m pretty pleased. The kids came out with good intensity tonight,” Ischy said. “They played hard tonight. We still haven’t been 100 percent healthy. We’ve only got 19 kids, so we’ve had some kids step up and take that challenge. I’m proud of them.”

The Seminoles had an extra day of practice to get ready.

“I thought we prepared them well this week. Most of these guys haven’t played on Saturday since they were in pee-wees. Maybe it’s something we should think about,” Ischy said with a huge smile.

“We keep preaching to them that we need to keep getting better each week. If we can do that, I think we’ve got a good foundation on which to build.”

Kilburn ran the ball 11 times for 139 yards and two scores. Rose-Burton completed 5 of 7 passes for 104 stripes and a TD. Young caught three balls for 59 yards and a score. Hogue also had an interception as the Seminoles now have 10.

Freshman Joe Bugaj rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries for Bridgeport (0-2). The Bulldogs were guilty of four interceptions.

“We didn’t help ourselves by allowing the opening kickoff for a touchdown or turning the ball over,” Bridgeport second-year head coach Fred Ray assessed. “This will be a film that we don’t watch. We just need to move on and get ready for Frontier.”

The Bulldogs will trek to Beaverton next Friday to meet the 2-0 Cougars at 7 p.m. Monroe Central, meanwhile, remains on the road at county rival River (0-2).

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