Monroe's Charles Truitt and the Tornadoes hit the road Friday to face one of the best teams in the state, Burke County, which comes into the game on a 10-game win streak and 22 of its last 23.
WHO: Monroe (8-3) at Burke County (10-1).
WHAT: Second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
ALBANY — They call him Gator Green.
He’s faster than one, quicker and even more dangerous on the football field, and he’s the biggest reason Burke County is a powerhouse today.
Donquell Green led the Bears to the state title a year ago — as a sophomore — and he’s even better this year, a quick-silver quarterback who does everything: run, throw and run some more to make life miserable for Burke’s opponents.
He’s the reason Burke County is 10-1 and ranked No. 3 in the Class AAAA state poll and the biggest obstacle between Monroe and the state quarterfinals. Monroe’s game plan against Burke County on Friday night is pretty simple: Stop Green and the Nadas will win.
But then again, Burke County has won 22 of its last 23 games and takes a 10-game winning streak into Friday’s Class AAAA Sweet 16 game in the Bear Den in Waynesboro, where a packed house and one of the most exciting players in Georgia await Monroe on Friday night.
“He’s one of the best players in the state,” Monroe coach Charles Truitt said this week. “You watch him on film. He does everything for them.”
Just take a look at what Green did in Burke’s 35-7, opening-round game of the state playoffs last week against Perry. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 139 yards, including a 77-yard TD pass. But what Green does best is run the ball. He ran out of the Wildcat a lot last year and runs out of the spread this season. He ran for three touchdowns last week, and ran two kickoffs back — one for a 98-yard TD and he ran a second kickoff back to the 2-yard-line — then scored on the next play. He also had an interception and returned it 47 yards to set up another touchdown.
But this is a Monroe team that feels its on a mission, one that dates back to last year’s brutal, 16-13 loss to Gainesville in the second round of the playoffs. The Tornadoes don’t just want to win to take the next step, they want to take a step no Monroe team has ever made.
No Monroe team has ever won a second-round game in the playoffs.
“We want to do something Monroe has never done,” said Dynamite Dozen linebacker Anthony Smith, who is averaging 11 tackles a game. “That was a real tough loss last year, and it took a while to get over it. It was lingering, and it was the talk of the summer. We want to get to the second round and make sure the same results don’t happen again.”
Senior defensive back Jawaski Randle added: “We’re playing to make history.”
Unfortunately, for the Tornadoes, they will have to beat the defending state champ to get to the next round.
“The thing is we still have that loss from last year hanging over our head, and we’re playing to get rid of it, to get past it,’’ receiver Kevin Williams said. “We have to get past this round. We’re playing to make history at Monroe.”
The Tornadoes (8-3) have the toughest draw in the AAAA playoffs. They had to beat No. 5 Griffin in the opening round and face No. 3 state-ranked Burke next
But it gets better if Monroe wins Friday — or worse, depending on how you look at it.
If the Tornadoes win Friday, they will likely play No. 1-ranked Sandy Creek in the quarterfinals.
None of that seems to matter to the kids from Monroe.
“Everybody thinks we’re going to lose,’’ Randle said after practice this week. “I like it that way. It gives you confidence. You’ve got something to prove.”
If Monroe’s Green Wall defense stops Gator Green, it could be a big night for the Tornadoes, who have their own quarterback.
Dynamite Dozen quarterback Charles Stafford has thrown for 2,741 yards and 21 touchdowns and has racked up more than 1,200 yards in the air over his last four games. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 315 yards and two TDs last week, and ran for a touchdown in Monroe’s 33-17 win against Griffin. He knows all the buzz about this game will be about Green but likes the fact he’s facing one of the most talked-about players in the state.
“It builds my confidence. I want to be the best quarterback,” Stafford said. “But it’s not really a challenge to me. I have faith in my defense. I wouldn’t want to face them.’’
Griffin had won nine games in a row and had scored 91 points in its previous two games, but Monroe kept the Bears’ offense out of the end zone. Griffin only scored on a pick-6, a punt return and a field goal.
But Green and Burke County present an entirely different equation.
“He’s elusive,” Smith said. “If you mess up and miss an assignment, he can find a seam and he’s gone. We have to be disciplined and execute and play our game.”
If Green breaks free, Randle might be the last man with a chance to stop him.
“He’s very elusive,’’ Randle said. “He’s a great quarterback. We have to play ball. We have to execute. We have to come out like we did last Friday. If we do that, we can play with anybody.’’
Truitt knows what his kids are up against.
“It’s a big challenge,” Truitt said. “Defensively, we’ve got to know where’s he located at all the time. They run the spread and run plays with an empty backfield with just him back there. We have to be constantly be watching him, and try to stop him from beating us. We have to stay away from the big plays.
“The best defense (against a team like Burke County) is our offense, and keeping their offense off the field,” he added. “We can’t make mistakes. The team that executes and doesn‘t make turnovers will win.’’
The Monroe kids actually like going on the road, and Truitt believes they are “more focused on the road.’’ They don’t seem to mind being the underdogs or even playing in hostile environments.
The players said they were taunted by the crowd at Griffin last week.
“From the moment we got there, the crowd started talking trash to us, telling us we weren’t any good and that we might as well get back on the bus — and that it would be a long ride home,” Williams said. “We just look at it like it‘s a challenge to go on the road and win.”
Truitt, who has had four teams reach the second round of the playoffs in his nine years at Monroe, knows the odds are against his kids but believes this group is special.
“This team can do it,’’ he said after practice this week. “They believe in themselves, and they believe in each other. They trust each other, and they have the confidence that they can play with anybody. I believe you can’t tell them otherwise.”
The kids believe it.
“Coach Truitt is always talking about teams with tradition, teams like (Burke County), and about how we have to establish our own tradition at Monroe,” Randle said. “I feel this is the year we can do something special. We can start a tradition right now.’’