ATHOL >> Though it held control of the football for 19 of the 22 minutes of Friday's second half, Monument Mountain Regional High School could never cross the goal line, despite three drives that ended in Athol High School's red zone.
The host Red Raiders scored three times in the first quarter, helped mightily by a blocked punt and an interception, and went on to blank the Spartans, 34-0, in an independent football game at Thomas J. O'Brien Field.
Athol (1-2) spread the rushing wealth with all five of its touchdowns on the ground, two by Tyler Lutz (game-high 140 yards) and one each from Mason Barrieau, Robbie Nelson and Nick Casella. The Red Raiders finished with 298 rushing yards out of their 312-yard total offense.
Shamaal Schoonmaker led Monument with 70 yards on 16 carries and Cam Dargie added 54 yards. The Spartans ended with 189 total yards, 182 of those on the ground, and kept possession for 30 1/2 of the game's 44 minutes.
"We've got to be able to get off the bus and be ready to go," said Monument coach Chris D'Aniello, whose team fell to 0-3. "We've got some injuries, we're down five starters. Our first two games were really tough, and we came up here and they beat us in the first quarter. We got down and could never recover from that."
Athol jumped on top just over three minutes into the action at the end of a 71-yard drive, with Barrieau taking a toss from quarterback Trever Mousseau and sweeping the left side for a 10-yard score. The failed two-point run left the score at 6-0.
Monument was forced to punt on its first series, but the Red Raiders' Ryan Hulbert burst through to block the kick and returned the loose ball to the Spartans' 16. Lutz finished it three plays later from the 11, scoring on a counter play, then ran for the two-pointer and a 14-0 lead.
Hulbert then picked off Spartans quarterback Caleb Carlson at midfield on Monument's next play from scrimmage, and Athol started at the Monument 43. Four plays put the ball at the Spartan 2 and Nelson took it in from there, with Kris Selanis booting the extra point to make it 21-0 with only 53 seconds left in the first.
Starting with great field position at midfield, the Spartans drove to the Athol 13 before they were set back by a chop-block penalty that created third-and-23 at the 28. They lost the ball on downs two plays later.
From a 21-0 halftime deficit, the Spartans then proceeded to consume nearly the entire third quarter, moving from their own 29 as far as the Athol 12, with a pair of fourth-down conversions included. On first down at the 12, though, Carlson bobbled the snap from center and Greg Moore covered the loose ball for Athol at the 10. That put a stop to a 16-play, 61-yard drive that took 9:50 off the clock.
It didn't take much for Athol to get out of the hole, with gains of 12 yards by Lutz and 15 by Casella, then a 53-yard burst by Lutz and a face-mask call against Monument that put the ball at the Spartans' 5. Casella scored from the 6 on second down for a 27-0 Raider lead with 10:14 to play in the fourth.
After Monument lost the ball on downs at the Athol 48, Lutz ran free for a 52-yard score, and Selanis added the extra point for the 34-0 bulge.
Monument's last chance at points came after a Kadin Shafiroff fumble recovery at the Athol 48. The Spartans made it down to the 8-yard line against Athol's reserves before Tyrell Beverly was stopped after a 5-yard gain as time expired.
Another trip eastward awaits the Spartans next Friday night when they travel to Amherst Regional High School.