MONTICELLO — A gritty Centerville Big Reds team just wouldn't quit.

Finding themselves down 21-0 at the end of the opening quarter, the Big Reds scored 28 unanswered points and then hung onto a razor-thin road playoff victory over the Monticello Panthers, 28-27.

The second-round win is the school's first road playoff victory, and sends them to No. 1 Williamsburg with a trip to the UNI Dome and the state semifinals on the line.

The Centerville offense struggled in the opening quarter. Monticello scored on its opening drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass. The Big Reds would respond with a first down but ultimately punted the ball back to the Panthers.

Monticello added another score with a one-yard run. The Big Reds punted again, and then the Panthers scored again in the closing seconds of the quarter for a 21-0 lead.

The game was far from over.

Centerville's Connor Stephens returned the Monticello kickoff to midfield to close first quarter action. After that, the Big Reds drove into the red zone with runs by Brody Tuttle and Sam Hash. They converted on 4th down and 2, and then finished with a Tuttle one-yard run for a touchdown.

Then came a special teams play. Monticello fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Centerville's Carsyn Edwards recovered. On that drive, the Big Reds got plenty of yards to convert on 4th down and 5 with a Tuttle pass to Griffin Weber. They'd ultimately score with a one-yard Tuttle run to make the score 21-14.

Centerville tied the game five minutes into the first half, completing a 75-yard drive with a four-yard run by Tuttle.

Then came another big defensive stand, with Stephens making a big tackle on a 4th and 2 play by Monticello to force a turnover on downs.

The Big Reds soon after found themselves in a punt situation on fourth down. And then came the trickery.

A fake punt was successful with a pass from Weber to Jax Mosley near the end of the third quarter. The drive was capped with another touchdown by Tuttle to put Centerville ahead 28-21 with 10:44 to go.

A 57-yard pass by Monticello put them in the red zone quickly. The Centerville defense held them out of the end zone, however. A broken play on 1st and goal resulted in an intentional grounding penalty, followed by a false start, to set up 3rd and goal from the 21. Monticello would gain 18 yards back, but on fourth down Centerville's Daniel George batted down and interception a pass in the end zone.

The BigReds took some time off the clock but would punt the ball, giving the Panthers possession on their own 35-yard line.

They'd move up the field before scoring on a six-yard scramble with 3:27 left to make the score 28-27. The point-after kick to tie barely missed wide left, energizing the Centerville sideline. The Big Reds would run out the clock and nab the 28-27 win.

Centerville (8-2) faces a shorter road trip next week, but lines up a district rematch with No. 1-ranked Williamsburg. The winner heads to a semifinal game at the UNI Dome.

The Big Reds on Friday tallied 284 yards of offense, all but 49 on the ground. Tuttle led in rushing with 35 carries for 167 yards and scoring all four touchdowns.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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