Monroe head football coach Charles Truitt has watched his team lose close ball game after close ball game all season, and it continued Friday night in a 28-25 defeat to Crisp County.
COREDLE -- Snakebit. That's how Monroe head coach Charles Truitt summed up Friday's 28-25 loss to Crisp County.
The Tornadoes were struck again in the Cougar Den late after nearly erasing a 21-point deficit. Monroe outscored Crisp, 25-7, in the second half after a first half of errors but couldn't find a play at the end when quarterback Charles Stafford was intercepted in the end zone by Crisp's Marshall Taylor to seal a key Region 1-AAA win for the Cougars.
"In my 22 years of coaching ..." Truitt started before trailing off. "They didn't quit. We had a chance to win at the end. We just didn't make the play."
Crisp (5-3, 3-1 Region 1-AAA) shot out to a 21-0 lead at halftime after recovering a Monroe fumbled punt inside the Tornadoes 5-yard-line, returning a fumbled snap for a touchdown and converting on a pooched onside kick.
Crisp's DeVaughan Smith scooped up the errant shotgun snap with 5:24 left in the second quarter and returned it seven yards to push the Cougars' lead to 21-0 and it looked as if they would run away.
"We told them at halftime, 'They're a dang good team and they can explode on you,'" Crisp County head coach Lee Campbell said. "And that's what they did."
Monroe, which was held to just 54 yards in the first half, rolled up 357 yards in the final two quarters and cut the three touchdown lead to just three points when Stafford hooked up with Terevious Hudson (three catches 125 yards) on a 91-yard bomb. Hudson juggled the catch and then corralled it at midfield and was gone. So was Crisp's huge lead. After missing on the 2-point conversion, Monroe (3-5, 1-3 Region 1-AAA) trailed just 28-25 with 5:18 to play.
"Monroe's got speed," Campbell said. "They've got some wheels."
The Tornadoes got the ball back with 4:31 to play and marched to the Crisp 15-yard line. Kevin Williams, Monroe's junior wideout, made a huge 27-yard catch and run on third-and-14 to extend the drive, but was slammed down hard and had to be carted off on a stretcher. Truitt said he had full range of motion and was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.
With 17 seconds left, Stafford had to scramble out of the pocket and threw into the end zone where Taylor was waiting on the pick. Stafford finished 10-for-24 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns and one rushing score. Hudson and Keonte Franklin caught the scoring passes.
"We've just been snakebit," Truitt said. "It's been happening to us all year long. You can't give (Crisp County) 21 points, but we had to fight our way out of the hole and they did."
The Cougars, though, came up with the stop when they needed it and move into second in the region race behind region-unbeaten Cairo, who rallied to beat Westover. Crisp goes to Cairo next week in a huge region matchup.
"They hung on," Campbell said of his defense. "They believed it could happen."
Crisp quarterback Trevor Shealy threw for 177 yards and one touchdown on 20-of-34 passing with one interception, a Hudson pickoff. Jontavious Carter had eight catches for 90 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown score from Shealy. Kevin Mygrant had two rushing touchdowns for the Cougars.
Monroe had two 100-yard backs in Brandon Hudson (125 yards on 19 carries) and Noel Devine (116 yards on 16 carries). Brandon Hudson had a 77-yard touchdown run in the fourth that sparked the Tornadoes' comeback.
Monroe will need wins in its final two games of the season, next week against Dougherty and in the finale versus Westover, to have any shot at the postseason.