(Photos by Michael Fischer)
Spencer (4-3, 3-2) trailed 6-0 after a three-and-out to start the game, which was followed by a 71-yard scoring drive by the Monarchs, capped with a 18-yard touchdown pass from Derek Hall to Thomas Pauley. The Tigers blocked the extra point and would go on to score 28 unanswered points.
The Tiger offense failed to get going on its second drive and punted after three plays again. The tides turned when Hall lofted a pass to Pauley down the sidelines but was intercepted by Hunter Cushman, who returned it 40 yards for a score, giving Spencer the 7-6 lead.
"(Cushman) had a great game in the secondary," Spencer coach Jim Tighe said. "He's back at full strength and he's a great corner. He made a great play on the interception return. We needed a boost in the arm."
The next play following Cushman's second interception, Spencer quarterback Matt Finnern sprinted 87 yards for a score and the 14-6 lead. The Tigers forced a Denison punt out of its own endzone the next possession and got set-up with great field position at the 28-yard line.
Once again, Finnern took the ball on the first play and dashed to the endzone for his second touchdown, a 28-yarder. The junior quarterback finished with 221 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
"The first couple of possessions, they were doing similar things to what Carroll did. We tell the guys, sometimes it's not always just going to be there. Sometimes we have to probe around and figure out what they're doing," Tighe said. "It's such a huge asset to have (assistant coach) Andy McGaffin up in the press box. He saw some things and that allowed us to break those long runs."
There wasn't any scoring in the third quarter as both teams made some adjustments. Denison (1-6, 1-3) drove inside the Spencer 5-yard-line but had a 4th-and-goal pass attempt broken up by Cushman in the back of the endzone to squash another Monarch opportunity.
Spencer took over at the 2-yard-line and drove down inside the Denison 10-yard-line with 17-yard runs by Finnern, Austin Lauck and Cody Mowery. Cushman, who had a 41-yard touchdown run called back on the drive due to a hold, would fumble headed to the endzone, which Denison recovered.
The Monarchs punted the ball back to Spencer, which went 56 yards on five plays, including a 34-yard run by Finnern which set-up his third touchdown, a 10-yard keeper up the middle.
Denison had drives on 11 plays, 14 plays and 12 plays but the Tiger defense came up with big stops inside their own 20-yard-line to limit the Monarch offensive production.
Finnern, in addition to his 221 yards rushing, completed his only two passes of the night. The first went to Blake Altenhofen for 11 yards and later a 12-yard completion to Phil Huisenga.
Altenhofen carried the ball just once for a 32 yard gain and Lauck gained 22 yards on eight carries.
Denison was led by Justin Kahl, who rushed 27 times for 106 yards, but just 23 in the second half. Hall finished the game 10-of-21 for 136 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Pauley caught three passes for 34 yards and a score.
This third district win puts Spencer into the playoff picture as they only have one district opponent left on the schedule, Bishop Heelan. The Tigers will travel to Algona to face the Bulldogs in a non-district game next Friday night.