NORTH ADAMS -- Jose Melendez touched the ball a lot on Saturday afternoon. But it was one carry in particular that sent the Drury football team on its way to a 36-16 win over Monument Mountain.
Melendez had carried the ball seven times for 31 yards before he took a handoff on first-and-10 from the Monument 37, danced his way through the defense and sprinted toward the left corner of the end zone. When he crossed the plane, Drury took a 12-8 lead with 6:38 left in the first half and never gave it back.
"Front line did a nice job [Saturday] doing what we asked them to do all week," coach Bill Bryce said. "So that gave [Melendez] the opportunity to get in the hole. Once he gets in the hole, he does sometimes dance more than we like him to dance, but he has that knack to find the open area."
Melendez finished the day with 25 carries for 155 yards, pushing his total to 818 on the season. Alex Bush complimented Melendez with 77 yards on 14 punishing carries.
Despite allowing Monument to recover a game-opening onside kick and march 48 yards for a quick score, the Blue Devils quickly closed up the holes on the defense and used great ball control on offense to come back and then distance themselves from the Spartans.
Jesse Dupont put Monu ment on the board with 8:31 left in the first quarter on a 4-yard run. The Blue Devils then kept the ball from Monument the rest of the first quarter.
On the ensuing kick, Drury took
The Blue Devils held the Spartans to just 26 yards on their other two possessions in the first half. Drury compiled 105 over their next two leading into halftime.
"We honestly knew it was coming," Melendez said of the onside kick. "I don't think we had the intensity we needed in the beginning, but every time someone scores now, we don't get down. We start getting back up and more pissed off than we usually do. So that had a lot to do with it. We stepped it up right after that."
In the second half, the defense was stellar. The Blue Devils forced Monument into one punt and forced three turnovers on downs before giving up a score with 2.2 seconds left in the game.
In the four drives Drury stopped Monument, it gave up just 40 yards and only one first down. A big reason for the defensive stops was an increase in linebacker blitzes.
On the second play of the third quarter, Alex Bush shot through the ‘A' gap and wrapped up Brandon Curtin for a two-yard loss. He made several more plays just like it, including one on a fourth-and-3 at Monument's 38. He broke through the line almost untouched and got to the running back immediately after he caught the pitch, forcing him to lateral the ball to Ryle O'Brian.
"They weren't really running up the middle," Bush said. "So we figured we'd blitz up the middle and try to cause a little havoc in the backfield."
As the defense shut down the Monument offense, the combination of Melendez and Bush ran over, through and around the Spartan defense. Bush carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards in the second half, half of those carries coming on Drury's opening drive. Melendez was scaled back from his 17 first-half carries to just eight in the second. They each had a touchdown run in the second half.
"We got to block for each other when either one of us isn't getting the ball," Bush said. "I think we're two different styles really helps us out because it keeps the defense thinking."
The tandem backs are a relatively recent discovery.
"At the beginning of the year, we were really using primarily Jose, and we just kind of basically stepped back and said listen, we're wasting Alex," Bryce said. "Alex is a punishing running back and when we're just utilizing him to block all the time, we're missing that part.
"It's nice [to have the tandem]. We probably should have been utilizing it a lot of earlier."