Monroe beats Albany in rain-shortened game

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Tornado weather.

That's what they call it Monroe High. Let a little rain show up, and every kid on the Monroe football team starts shouting "It's Tornado weather. It's Tornado weather.''

It might just be Tornado season.

The way Monroe has been playing, it could just turn out that way. The Tornadoes have a huge offensive line, two great quarterbacks and even found a kicker this week. They look like the most complete team in Southwest Georgia.

How far will they go? It's hard to tell, but even a stadium-clearing rain storm didn't seem to damper Monroe on Saturday night.

And that long lightning delay? They just waited it out at Hugh Mills Stadium, where Monroe and Albany High were stuck in a close game on Saturday night when lightning showed up and the game was called with 2:30 left in the third quarter with Monroe leading, 23-14.

It's official: Monroe wins.

Because it was not a region game, the game goes in the books as a Tornadoes victory and won't be continued.

"We'll take a win any way we can get one,'' Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. "It's a shame it has to end like that, but both teams had the same amount of time. Give Albany credit. They played a great game.''

Albany High coach Felton Williams took the loss with class.

"I'm not complaining,'' Williams said. "That's the way the ball lands sometimes. I'm not disappointed in the kids. That's a great team, and we competed.

"The thing we did (Saturday night) is we were in position to make the tackles, and didn't make them. We've got to tackle better. We're green and we're growing. we've just got to make the tackles.''

Albany (1-2) is finished playing the city teams, beating Dougherty and falling to Westover and now Monroe. Monroe, however, is just getting started, and it's going to take more than that hard rain that drenched Hugh Mills on Saturday to stop Monroe (3-0), which is looking more and more like a complete team -- more and more like it could be Tornado season.

This is what Tornado season looks like: There's quarterback Devine Noel lighting it up on Monroe's first play from scrimmage with a 52-yard TD strike to Johntavious Strum, who just keeps coming up with big plays for the Tornadoes.

Tornado season has Noel right in the middle of the storm. He doesn't just stir the drink, he whips it like a blender, because he can do so many things. Just look at that breakaway run in the second quarter when Noel -- facing a third and 21 at Albany's 23 yard line -- took off and didn't stop until he reached the end zone to give Monroe a 16-7 lead.

There he was again, topping off the best drive of the night, an 80-yard march that opened the second half and put Monroe in control. Noel started the drive with a 4-yard run and kept it alive with a third-and-six pass to Strum, who raced 24 yards to the 48. Then came the play of the night. Facing a third-and-nine from the Monroe 47, Noel again went to Strum, who darted over the middle and found room on the left sideline, covering more than half the field for a 43-yard gain to the Albany 10.

Then finally, there was Noel again, facing a third and goal from the 10. He slipped to his left, darted inside, broke a tackle and then went spinning into the end zone for his second TD run of the night.

Truitt didn't have a true kicker when the season began, but found linebacker Courtney Massey, who decided he would try it this week. Teverious Hudson, a talented receiver, kicked the first PAT and then Massey hit the next two. Monroe had not kicked an extra point this season.

"We (now) have a kicker,'' Truitt, who was happy the way his kids stormed back after being down 7-0.

Noel had completed 6-of-12 for 138 yards and one TD when the lightning shut everything down. Strum, who had an amazing game last week when he scored on two receptions and an interception in a rout of Notheast, Macon, caught three passes Saturday for 119 yards and a TD before the game was stopped.

Strum caught a 13-yard TD and a 96-yard TD last week from freshman quarterback Charles Stafford, who filled in for Noel after Noel was benched because of disciplinary reasons. Stafford threw for 223 yards and three TDs, and Monroe coach Charles Truitt said he planned on playing both quarterbacks against Albany. But Noel started and was still there when the lightning hit.

"We had planned to use Charles and he's a big part of this team, but we saw some things that let us believe Devine could do to help us win," Truitt said. "(Devine) was a man about his suspension. He came back and practiced hard and never felt sorry for himself or got down (on the team). He was a big-time ball player for us tonight, a big reason we won.''

Noel said he wanted to make a statement.

"It felt real good to be back in there behind my college line,'' he joked, referring to Monroe's huge offensive line. "We made a statement, and I made one before the game: I told my teammates we would not lose to Albany High.''

Albany had its moments, though.

The Indians celebrated homecoming by driving 65 yards the first time they touched the ball, and Emmanul Byrd hit Rantiez Williams with a 9-yard TD pass to lift Albany to a 7-0 lead. The drive was highlighted by a 51-yard catch-and-run play by Jeconiah Jackson, who broke free to the Monroe 13 yard line.

Monroe answered in one play, and took a 9-7 lead when a high snap on a punt sailed out of the end zone with 7:22 left in the first quarter to give Monroe a safety. The same thing happened to Albany punter Daniel Castaneda last week against Westover.

Noel's 23-yard TD lifted the Tornadoes to a 16-7 lead, but the Indians came right back before halftime and drove inside the Monroe 10 before Erron Grant picked off a Bryd pass at the 6 yard line and returned it to the 22.

But Albany snapped right back two plays later when linebacker Calvin Jackson grabbed a loose fumble on the run and raced 30 yards for a TD. Castaneda's PAT made it a 16-14 game with 42 seconds left in the half.

Then came Noel and Strum and the 80-yard drive, then came the rain, and then the lightning.

Tornado season might follow.