Senior Dustin Monaco waited his turn to be the Kent Roosevelt varsity starting quarterback for the past three years.
He watched as Evan Shimensky and Tra’Von Chapman played starring roles on Rough Riders teams that advanced to the Division II playoffs.
That opportunity presented itself Thursday night at Archbishop Hoban, and Monaco took advantage of it on a humid evening at Dowed Field.
Monaco threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another to guide the Rough Riders to a 22-7 victory over the Knights in the season opener.
“I have been behind great quarterbacks all [three] years,” Monaco said. “They only made me a better player. They made me want to be better and made me want to strive to work harder to be in their shoes and get this W.”
Monaco completed 9-of-21 passes for 113 yards, and he rushed for 46 yards on 23 carries.
“We all played our hearts out,” Monaco said. “It wasn’t going the way we wanted it to go in the first half, but we came out in the second half and just kept fighting.”
Roosevelt led 8-7 at halftime. The Rough Riders defense forced four turnovers.
“A lot of the young kids stepped up and a lot of the first year [varsity] players came out and fought hard,” said senior linebacker Matt Sommers, a Kent State recruit.
“We asked them to man up because a lot of them were going both ways. They came to play tonight.”
Roosevelt seniors Drew Gallagher and Noah Haislah each recovered a fumble, and seniors Jesse Rogers and Tanner Bontrager both recorded an interception.
“This was a hard fought game from both sides,” Roosevelt coach John Nemec said. “Both teams hit well. I thought with this the first game, both sides had the jitters and kind of worked them out in the first half. I am real proud of our defense. They did a great job. Our quarterback led and competed. I am real pleased for the first time out.
“[Dustin] has been chomping at the bit to get in there. He is just a great competitor. He is the kind of kid who is a leader, and he competes every play.”
Roosevelt took a 2-0 lead with 4:03 to go in the first quarter after an errant Hoban long snap that went out of the end zone on a punt attempt.
The Rough Riders upped their lead to 8-0 with 11:52 remaining in the second quarter when Monaco threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Eriqk Smiley.
Hoban cut its deficit to 8-7 after a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Jake Tersigni with 1:46 to go in the first half.
Monaco rushed for a 12-yard touchdown at 2:28 in the third quarter, and senior Marcus Caddiell added a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter.
Senior Kardell Jackson and junior Luther Fortson also had key rushes for Roosevelt, which has made the playoffs in five of the past seven years.
Hoban is looking to get back into playoff contention under first-year coach Tim Tyrrell after posting a 7-23 record during the past three years. The Knights made the playoffs 10 times between 1998 and 2009.
“The kids worked hard,” Tyrrell said. “We are at the point right now where we just gotta figure out a way to win. I think we figured out a way how to lose today.
“Four turnovers didn’t really help us. They are doing what I am asking. They are being very, very physical. We played very physical football today, which I am happy about. That is Hoban football.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.