Levi McMonigle is the reluctant football player who isn’t so reluctant anymore.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior is a starting defensive end for the Madison High School squad that’s made history this year, getting to the postseason for the first time and advancing to the Division V state semifinals.
McMonigle is looking forward to a trip to Chillicothe on Friday night to face Wheelersburg, having opted to skip football last season while a student at Valley View.
“I’m really happy with my decision now. It’s been great,” McMonigle said. “It’s crazy. I didn’t know Madison had the capabilities of going this far in football, but here we are.”
He was a tight end/wide receiver as a freshman at Valley View, and while McMonigle did see a little varsity action as a tight end, it was an overall season where he didn’t play all that much.
After starting with the Spartans varsity basketball team as a freshman, McMonigle decided to devote his sophomore year to hoops.
“I didn’t really feel like playing football,” he said. “I thought I was a basketball player after freshman year for sure. I thought football didn’t really need me as much, and with basketball, I was kind of a big player on that team.”
McMonigle admitted he didn’t really miss football last season, and he averaged 10.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore playing Valley View basketball.
The transfer to Madison came after the 2016-17 school year. He wanted to play basketball with some of his AAU friends who were Mohawks, guys like Grant Whisman and Mason Whiteman, so he made the move in open enrollment and knew he would have to sit out the first half of the season this year due to transfer rules.
“Football was not part of the plan,” McMonigle said. “I just wanted a better opportunity for my last two years of high school. I thought coming to Madison was the right choice.”
Then he started to get the questions about football. He wouldn’t have to sit out the fall season since he didn’t participate in football last year, and officials and coaches at Madison asked him about playing. Students asked him about playing. And gradually the sport re-entered his mind-set.
“His family contacted the school and asked about it because he had just finished with his summer basketball,” Madison coach Steve Poff said. “I said, ‘Sure, bring him down. We’ll talk to him and see where he’s at.’ And it just kind of worked out.”
McMonigle didn’t jump right into the lineup. Not only had he taken a year off, defensive end wasn’t a familiar spot for him. He hadn’t played any defense since the eighth grade.
“It was two weeks until game day when I came out. I had to learn a lot of stuff,” McMonigle said. “I didn’t know anybody here except some of the AAU guys, but they took me in. It’s a good group of kids that’s easy to be around. They like me, I like them, they had no problem with me joining the team, and it’s been good ever since.”
He didn’t play much in the opener against Talawanda, but became a starter in Week 2 against Monroe.
“We had a little injury issue and some discipline issues, and he was kind of forced into that spot not really being ready and not really understanding his reads and what he was doing yet,” Poff said. “But it’s like everything else. Give it time and it’ll work itself out.”
Madison lost to the Hornets and then to Valley View in Week 3, but hasn’t lost since. And McMonigle has taken off as an end with the size and athleticism to be a disruptive force.
Losing to his old teammates at Valley View wasn’t necessarily a thrilling experience for McMonigle, but he took it in stride.
“We knew they were tough,” he said. “They kind of manhandled us in the second half. They were jawing a little bit during the game, but it was all in fun.”
McMonigle has made some pivotal plays during this playoff run by the Mohawks. He’s recovered fumbles the last two weeks against Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy and West Jefferson.
“He knocks a lot of balls down. He’s just around the ball a lot,” Poff said. “He’s not a cocky or arrogant kid. He had some growing pains early on, but it’s been nothing but improvement every week with him.”
Madison’s defensive front thrives on pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run, and McMonigle is one block in that wall. The Mohawks have allowed 48 rushing yards in the last two weeks combined.
“Some nights some guys get all the tackles … and other guys get double-teams,” McMonigle said. “We all get our glory in different games. It all works out in the end.”
Because he has to sit out the first half of the basketball season, McMonigle will have a little down time once football ends. His gridiron success has made him ponder his future in both sports.
“Football hadn’t been in my mind for a year. Now it’s like heck, maybe I should start working out in football more and lifting more weights,” he said. “We’ll see how this basketball season turns out. I’ll probably play both sports next year too and just go from there.”
What: Division V state semifinal, Madison (11-2) vs. Wheelersburg (13-0) at Chillicothe, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Herrnstein Field, 345 Arch St., Chillicothe
Madison playoff history: 3-0 in one appearance (2017)
Wheelersburg playoff history: 33-27 in 29 appearances (1981, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017), winning a state title in 1989
Next: Winner advances to the state championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, facing either Pemberville Eastwood (13-0) or Canfield South Range (13-0) on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1