CLARION — A dominating defense made the difference Saturday night, as the Brookville Raiders suffocated Moniteau in the second half during a 14-7 win over the Warriors at Clarion University's Memorial Stadium in the District IX Class AA Semifinal.
The win erased a three-game playoff losing streak to the Warriors for Brookville, but most importantly, put the Raiders in the district championship game Friday against the 10-0 Brockway Rovers at Clarion University.
Dominating might not do Brookville justice when describing just how stellar its defense was during the second half of Saturday night's game.
In that second half, the Raiders surrendered just 11 total yards of offense to Moniteau and limited the Warriors to 121 yards for the entire game.
It was pretty clear that this win was on the defense.
"We've done this before, where our defense has played well, and we've had a comfortable feeling," Brookville head coach Chris Dworek said. "They brought so much all year, and I'm proud of them."
Moniteau quarterback Kyle Armagost was held to minus-eight yards on 17 carries and completed six of his 22 passes for 93 yards. Armagost was also sacked four times in the second half alone.
"I think our front seven (made the difference)," Dworek said of his defense. "The front four are real strong and are good leaders. With our linebackers, I like to respectfully argue that we have three of the best as a group. That front seven is good. They get pressure and their techniques going, and it's fun to watch them."
Despite having a dominating defense, Moniteau had the ball with just over a minute left in its own territory during a 14-7 game with a chance to tie, but failed to move the ball downfield.
Offensively, Brookville owned that side of the ball as well, but didn't have the points to show for it due to four failed offensive drives early in the game that all ended inside the Moniteau 20-yard line.
Brookville running back Ryan Kerr — who once again was the difference-maker in the game — put Brookville up 7-0 on a two-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
It appeared in the second quarter that Brookville was going to make it a two-score game when Conan Gilhousen fumbled the ball on the Warrior's four-yard line, leaving a big touchdown on the field.
On Moniteau's ensuing possession, the Warriors traveled 96 yards in just five plays for their lone scoring drive of the game — a 37-yard touchdown pass from Armagost to Ethan Pry with 1:12 left in the half to tie the game at seven.
On Brookville's next possession, quarterback Steven Kennedy thew an interception to Joey Deal, which was followed by a highlight interception by Brookville's Brock Bietz on the very next play to give the Raiders possession back with little time remaining.
The Raiders then drove the ball deep into Moniteau territory, but Cameron Yard missed a 25-yard field goal as time expired to leave the game tied at halftime.
Though the Bietz interception didn't lead to points, it halted a potential scoring drive for the Warriors, something Bietz has done many times this season.
"He's a baseball player and is a good one, and he's an outfielder, and you can see it," Dworek said of Bietz. "He tracks that ball well. He knows his football keys and techniques. It's comfortable knowing he's back there. He's the complete package because he's a hitter, too."
With Brookville feeling as if it should have had a lead by the break, the Raiders came out of the gates with purpose in the second half and scored on their first drive of the third quarter.
The six-play, 59-yard drive was capped off by Kerr's 27-yard touchdown run with 10:48 left in the third quarter to put the Raiders up by seven.
Moniteau had nothing working in its favor the rest of the way, with the exception of a nearly disastrous play by the Brookville special teams unit.
In the fourth quarter, Brookville lined up for a 33-yard field goal attempt, but a bad snap led to Yard running in the backfield looking for a receiver.
Yard managed to throw the ball forward before getting drilled for an incomplete pass, rather than a fumble that Moniteau was in good position to pick up and run for yardage.
But in the end, it was the defense and running by Kerr that made the difference.
Kerr, who ran for 189 yards against Moniteau in Week 3, rushed for 185 yards Saturday.
"The first Moniteau game, he realized he could be the workhorse," Dworek said. "He had a spring in his step in pre-game, and he said he felt pretty good."
As for the rest of the Raiders, a playoff win always gives a team confidence, which is what Brookville will need when it takes on the undefeated Rovers.
Brockway, known for its overwhelming offensive success, will be the biggest challenge of the season for the Raiders.
"I'm proud tonight, and I'm proud every week," Dworek said. "Coach (Tom) Weaver, coach (Adam) Hepler and coach (Doug) Davis got them ready to go, and their confidence was high when we started.
"They are happy, excited and proud of themselves, so it will be a good weekend for them," he said.