Monroe moves to two-QB system against Albany tonight

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- They've been talking about one thing all week around Monroe: What do you do now that freshman quarterback Charles Stafford has emerged?

1) Do you replace junior Devine Noel, an electric QB who can run and throw and beat you every which way but loose?

2) Do you start Noel and keep the freshman on the bench?

3) Or do you move Noel somewhere else on the field and start the rocket-arm freshman?

How about none of the above.

The answer is simple.

"Both of them will play,'' said Monroe coach Charles Truitt on Friday afternoon as he prepared his team for tonight's city rivalry game against Albany High at 7 p.m. at Hugh Mills Stadium. "We opened it up in practice this week, and decided both will play.''

Look for Noel to start. He was the starter and had a monster game in the opener against Terrell County, but had to sit out last week's game against Northeast, Macon for disciplinary reasons.

Noel paid his one game suspension and is back just in time to face Albany. Only a funny thing happened on the way to this game: Stafford, a 15-year-old freshman, was forced to start last week and he lit up Hugh Mills Stadium, throwing for 223 yards and three TDs, including a 96-yarder on a third-and-16 play to Johntavious Strum, who caught the ball in stride at the 30. Stafford was on the money all night.

"That freshman quarterback can really throw the ball,'' said Albany High coach Felton Williams, who was at that game. "And his poise is unbelievable.''

That leaves Truitt with a headache, because he now has two big weapons at quarterback.

"Yes, but it's a good headache (to have),'' Truitt said.

Monroe will likely stay with the hot hand -- and right now, the Tornadoes (2-0) have been hot. They're ranked No. 2 in The Herald's Fab 5 Poll and are playing as well as any team in Southwest Georgia.

They've outscored opponents 44-18, and six of those opposing points came last week on the final play of the game when backups were playing defense for Monroe.

It's a different game when Tornadoes defensive tackle Derrell Price is in the game. Price tends to disrupt everything on the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Anthony Smith, a sophomore, has also been a force for Monroe, which held Northeast, Macon to either no gain or a loss on 16 plays last week.

Albany High knows exactly what's up front at Monroe, where the Tornadoes have one of the biggest offensive lines in this part of the state -- a front led by Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Bryan Chamberlain, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound wall who is headed for Georgia Tech.

"This may be the biggest line we face all year,'' Williams said. "Monroe is big and physical and Chamberlain does a great job. And they're loaded with speed at the skill positions. We'll be tested in every phase of the game.''

Maybe, but Albany has already upset Dougherty this season, and learned a lot from last week's 21-7 loss to Westover.

"A lot has changed this week,'' Williams said. "We have to do a better job of protecting our quarterback (Emannul Byrd). We made a lot of adjustments this week.''

Byrd never had time to throw against Westover, and some high snaps put him in jeopardy. When he has time, Bryd can beat almost anyone.

"Albany is a scary team to play,'' said Truitt, who was at the Westover-Albany game. "They were a play here or there from being 2-0. They've got talent at Albany and coach Williams does a great job.''

If the game is close, Albany has a huge edge in kicking with Daniel Castaneda -- one of the top kickers in Southwest Georgia -- while Monroe's biggest weakness is in the kicking game. It could be close, simply because of the rivalry factor. All four schools in town are playing each other for the first time in years. But this is Monroe's first city rivalry game of the season.

The Tornadoes hold a 20-9-1 all-time edge vs. AHS and have won eight in a row, but the two teams have played each other only twice this decade -- plus Albany High hasn't beaten Monroe since 1989. Don't let the date fool you. Albany hadn't beaten Dougherty since 1988 until two weeks ago. It was Williams' idea to bring back the city rivalry and his team completes the gauntlet tonight.

"The city rivalry is a good thing,'' Truitt said. "I'm glad we brought it back. These kids all know each other from middle school so it's good for them. And it's good for the community.''