Special to The News
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Harking back to its glory days, Monroe Area used overwhelming speed and big plays to roll past Social Circle 49-24 at Redskins Stadium Friday night.
Combined with last week’s upset of Loganville, the victory gave the Hurricanes back-to-back wins over local rivals with next week’s home opener against Walnut Grove looming. What’s more, they improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2013 when they won 11 straight before falling in the second round of the state playoffs.
“I can’t say I’m surprised where we are right now,” said first-year Monroe Area head coach Kevin Reach. “We felt like we had some athletes who could make plays.”
Chief among those is quarterback Chandler Byron. With the Redskins stacking the box and daring Monroe to beat them through the air, the junior signal caller lit up the defense with 224 yards passing and six touchdown touchdowns. He added 95 yards rushing.
“I’m not sure where he got the reputation that he couldn’t throw,” Reach said of his quarterback. “He’s worked hard on it in the off season and I see it every day in practice. He’s a great leader, a tough runner, and he’s as accurate throwing as anyone I’ve seen.”
The two teams traded scores for most of the first half. Byron connected with Emmanuel Okwudili from 30 yards for the first of his two TD catches.
On the ensuing kickoff, Redskins senior Caleb Howard fielded the ball at the four and raced 96 yards down the right sideline to tie the game.
Jakia Thompson put Monroe back ahead with a 9-yard run, the first of four TDs on the night. The Redskins responded with a 27-yard scoring pass from Jackson Will to Davis Smith.
But with nine minutes remaining in the second half, Monroe exploded for three touchdowns on three consecutive offensive plays to put the game away.
First, Byron tossed a screen pass to Thompson, who raced 28 yards for a score. He then connected with Jayden Brandon on a 61 scoring strike. After a botched snap on a punt attempt by the Redskins, the Hurricanes took over at the Social Circle five. From there, Bryon passed to Thompson for the score, giving his team a 35-21 halftime cushion.
Byron added two more TD passes in the second. The first went 19 yards to Thompson and the last an 11-yard strike to Okwudili.
Despite the loss, Social Circle rebounded nicely from last week’s disappointing shutout to George Walton. The key was the discovery of a quarterback rotation that worked well for an offense that was struggling.
Will, the Redskins returning signal caller, opened at quarterback. But on the second series of the game, Tate Peters took his place and led Social Circle on its most impressive drive of the young season. He carried six times on a nine-play drive and gained 29 yards.
Facing a third-and-11, Will was reinserted and finished off the scoring with his pass to Davis.
On the Redskins’ final touchdown drive just before halftime, the two again split time with Will completing a key 20-yard pass on third down and Peters connecting with Howard for a 5-yard score.
“We’d plan to do that all along,” said Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Fligg. “We were just waiting on the right situation.”
The move took the Hurricanes by surprise.
“I thought that was a really good move for them,” Reach said. “That number 12 [Peters]
runs hard and is tough to bring down. And then number 14 [Will] is a good passer.”
Fligg said he anticipates sticking with the platoon the rest of the year.
The Redskins only second half points came on a 42-yard field goal by Rion Wonek.
With the loss, the Redskins fall to 1-2. Fortunately, none of the first four games impact their postseason hopes. Social Circle will travel to Macon to face Mt. de Sales in their final non-league game before Region 8-AA play begins the following week.