Monroe's Derrick Adams wraps up Worth County QB Eli Reddell during Friday night's game at Hugh Mills. Monroe won, 31-21. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY – Monroe High is fueling up the bus again for the playoffs and they don’t mind it one bit.
The Tornadoes secured the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAA Friday with a 31-21 win over Worth County and will hit I-75 North in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs for the second year in a row.
“I don’t care where we’re going,” Monroe junior quarter back Charles Stafford said. “We play better on the road. We’ve just got to execute.”
Worth County was saved from playoff elimination after Americus-Sumter was knocked off, 12-7, by Crisp County Friday. Worth and Crisp tied for the fourth seed in the region, but Worth won the head-to-head regular season matchup, 10-6, and will travel to Region 4-AAAA No.1 Stockbridge Friday in the first round.
“We snuck in the back door,” Rams’ head coach Scotty Ward said of getting into the postseason despite two losses to end the season. “Sometimes sneaking in the back door is alright, too. It’s four straight years we’ve made the playoffs. I’m proud that we’ve at least got there. We fight every year and always claw in at the end of the season somehow or another.”
Monroe will travel to play at perennial power Griffin, Region 4-AAAA’s No. 2 seed, Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs. The Tornadoes did damage on the road in the playoffs last season, beating Baldwin in the first round three hours from home before falling just short at state-power Gainesville in round two.
“We play better on the road,” Monroe head coach Charles Truitt said. “I’m looking forward to traveling. I think our kids are more focused on the road.”
If Monroe plans on pulling more road upsets, they'll ride the bus and the arm of Stafford, who threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for another Friday against Worth County. Stafford completed 19-of-30 passes. He admitted the Tornadoes’ 7-3 record and No. 3 seed in the region wasn’t ideal, but they’ll just play the hand they're dealt in the playoffs.
“I guess things happen for a reason,” Stafford said of the repeat road playoff scenario.
Sophomore Tornadoes’ receiver Devonntavius Campbell was on the receiving end of two of Stafford's touchdown throws, catching a 16-yard pass to open the scoring in the second quarter. He also pulled in a 5-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to put the Tornadoes ahead 31-7. Campbell finished with 71 yards receiving on five catches.
Stafford, who fumbled into the endzone on Monroe’s first drive of the game, scored on a 3-yard run to give the Tornadoes a 13-0 lead before the half. Monroe led 19-0 after Emmanuel Davis scored on a 27-yard throw from Stafford with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Davis led Monroe with 80 yards on five catches.
Worth (4-6) got on the board with Deen Worley's 38-yard pass from Eli Reddell with 5:40 remaining in the third. Reddell was forced to throw more than 30 times after Monroe shut down the Rams' running attack, holding Worth under 50 yards rushing. Reddell connected with Worley twice late in the fourth on scoring strikes of 29 and 13 yards to cut the lead to 31-21.
Worley finished with three touchdown catches on the night with 110 receiving yards on six catches.
Brenton Truitt added a 1-yard scoring run in the third for Monroe. Daryl Brown ran for 71 yards on 17 carries to lead the Tornadoes’ ground game.
Worth had three turnovers after a scoreless first quarter, including Cornelius Jenkins' interception of Reddell at the goalline in the fourth.
Worth got as close a 19-7 in the third after Worley's first scoring catch, but Monroe answered with a 10-play scoring drive that all but put the game away. After an early-season loss to city rival Westover and falling short against Region 1-AAAA top seed Cairo last week, Monroe is looking forwarded to the road trips that await.
“They get pushed in a corner and they keep fighting,” said Truitt, whose team has been on the road in the opening round of the playoffs three of the last four years.