MONTICELLO — It was a moment a player dreams about in the playoffs.
Monticello cornerback Asher Bradd was coming up to tackle Anna-Jonesboro quarterback Conner Jerolds as he was trying to the turn the corner.
As the first Sages player reached Jerolds, the ball popped out and went straight to Bradd with 76 yards of open field ahead of him.
Bradd took it all 76 yards to the end zone, giving the Sages their first lead of the game at 14-7 with 7:13 to go until halftime. From that point on it was all Monticello, outscoring the Wildcats 35-7 the rest of the game to win 49-14 and advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals.
"I saw the ball squirt out and at first I thought I should just pounce on it, but I saw that there was nobody else around and I just picked it up and ran," Bradd said.
The play came as Anna-Jonesboro had been successful at keeping the Monticello offense off the field in the first quarter and the game tied 7-7.
"At that point we had just had three or four plays of offense," Monticello coach Cully Welter said. "So not only were we excited to get the ball back, but anytime you can turn that into immediate points it's such a benefit. You don't loss too many games when you get defensive touchdowns."
Monticello (11-0) advances to the quarterfinals to play Greenville next Saturday, time to be determined. The No. 13-seeded Comets (8-3) defeated No. 12-seeded Pleasant Plains 26-14 Saturday.
The Wildcats and Sages offenses could not have been more different. Anna-Jonesboro ran exclusively, connecting on just two passes in the game, and the team's run attack was led by Jerrolds, Damien Chrisp and Reid Morrison.
Wildcats drives came in a standard form — three-yard running play, repeat, three-yard running play, repeat. Jerolds ran for 111 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown in the first half.
The game plan was successful — the Sages only led 21-14 at halftime — but Anna-Jonesboro fumbles in the second half gave the Sages too many opportunities.
"We had a lot of respect for their run game but we saw it on film that they would fumble the ball and that kind of bore out in the second half," Welter said.
The key was a second-half Sages defense that was getting back to the running back as the hand-off was being made to create the turnovers.
The Sages offense returned to form in the second half and were led by senior Alek Bundy who scored four touchdowns on 98 yards receiving and 85 yards rushing.
"Alek is so versatile as you could see today," Welter said. "You can hand it to him, you can throw it to him. He's just a good all-around player."
Bundy plays safety on defense and knew the key to the second half was to get the Wildcats offense off the field.
"We started off a little slow but we came out in the second half and switched up the defense a little bit and kept it going on offense. We got some three-and-outs to get the offense back on the field," Bundy said.
Bradd added to his defensive touchdown with a running touchdown on a reverse hand-off from Bundy and later a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braden Snyder.
"It was an awesome game," Bradd said. "We picked it up after the first two touchdowns. We knew the offense would eventually work because it has been working all year."