Monroe star Jawaski Randle dropped what would've been a game-winning touchdown last year in a 6-0 loss to Americus, but he more than atoned for it this past Friday on both sides of the ball as the Tornadoes got their revenge, 27-13.
AMERICUS — Every kid on Monroe’s team was celebrating after the Tornadoes beat Americus-Sumter, 27-13, on Friday night to keep Monroe’s Region 1-AAAA title hopes alive, but no one felt better about the victory than safety/receiver Jawaski Randle.
Last year, Monroe suffered a bitter loss to Americus-Sumter, falling 6-0 in Americus in a nightmarish game where the Tornadoes turned the ball over seven times and failed to score in the final seconds when they still had a chance to win.
Randle has been carrying that loss around with him for a year. He dropped a touchdown pass with 30 seconds left that would changed the outcome.
“Jawaski took that loss personally,’’ Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. “I think he wanted to have a big game (Friday). He had a great game. He had a monster game against them.’’
Randle admitted he wanted to redeem himself.
“I dropped a touchdown pass (last year), and I really blame myself for that loss,” Randle said. “I wanted to have a good game.’’
He said he wanted to win for Truitt as much as anything. All the Monroe players felt that way. Truitt was the defensive coordinator at Americus for 14 years, including the back-to-back state title teams in 2000 and 2001, but he was 0-2 as a head coach at Monroe against the Panthers, who dropped from Class AAAA to Class AAA three years ago and landed in Monroe’s region.
Both of the losses were tough defeats, a 14-6 loss two years ago when Monroe had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, and last year’s bitter 6-0 defeat.
“It was personal, because our coach used to coach here, and we wanted to get the win for him,” Randle said. “We wanted to get that chip off his shoulder because he hadn’t beaten them.’’
Truitt said he appreciated the effort and the feelings of his kids, who let him know the game was for him. They even soaked him in Gatorade after the win, and many of his players came up and hugged Truitt.
“It was big to beat a team that was so hot, and we needed to win to make sure we have a chance to win the region,’’ Truitt said of the Panthers, who had won three in a row coming into the game. “We needed it, and it was (special) because the kids wanted to win it for me. They thought they let me down when we lost last year. It meant a lot playing against a team where I coached for 14 years.’’
Randle played with enough passion to win three games.
He made one big play after another in the secondary and finished the game with eight tackles, including a couple of classic one-on-one, open-field tackles, and he also had three pass breakups, including one in the end zone that prevented a touchdown.
That would have been more than enough, but Randle also came up with one of the biggest plays of the night when he ran a punt back for a 70-yard touchdown to lift Monroe to a 14-0.
Americus punted the ball away from Monroe’s Kevin Williams all night. Williams returned two kicks for touchdowns in the first two games of the season, and since then no one wants to kick the ball to him.
Truitt had Randle as the short man on the punt return, and just before the punt, Truitt motioned for Randle to back up. Sure enough, he caught the short punt and darted up the right side untouched for 70 yards.
“He moved back, and after that it was just catch and run,” Truitt said of the punt return. “That was a real big play.’’
After the game, Americus-Sumter coach Chris Wade said this of the play: “We shot ourselves in the foot on the punt. We ended up kicking it to one of their most dangerous players.”
Randle was part of a defensive effort that set the tone for the night. Americus had scored 107 points in its last three games, including 83 in its two Region 1-AAAA games, but the Panthers had trouble getting into the end zone all night.
Bryce Benton scored on a brilliant 23-yard yard in the second quarter and Wesley Fields scored on a 1-yard run at the end of the game to close it to 27-13. The Panthers have an explosive offense — Benton passed for 103 yards and ran for 26, and Fields rushed for 112 yards on 22 carries.
But Monroe’s “Green Wall” defense (that’s what they’ve nicknamed themselves) bounced back all night. After almost every big play, Monroe would come back and either stop the Panthers for no gain or a loss.
The “Green Wall” had 16 plays for either no gain or a loss, including six sacks and a crucial play by defensive end Antonio Leroy who stopped Benton for no gain on a third-and-goal play at the 7-yard line late in the third quarter.
BIG NIGHT FOR “PETER MAN”: No one was bigger on defense for Monroe than defensive tackle Cortez Banks, who wreaked havoc all night. Banks, who has the unexplainable nickname of “Peter Man” because he likes the name Peter better than Cortez, made 12 tackles, including four for losses and two sacks. But he was involved with a big pass rush on all six of Monroe’s sacks.
“They just couldn’t block him,” Truitt said. “He was the one flying in there on the sacks and creating havoc and giving room for the defensive ends to get there. He has gotten better every game.’’
Banks also had one of the biggest plays of the night when he blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt after Leroy had stopped Benton at the Monroe 7-yard-line.
“I was surprised they kicked the field goal. I really didn’t think they were going to kick the field goal. I thought they would fake it, and told our players to stay back and watch for the fake, and he got in there and blocked it,” Truitt said.
Banks had a great game — and an explanation for the nickname.
“Cortez is my name, but I like Peter better,’’ he said. “And when I’m on the field, I am the Peter Monster! That’s why they call me ‘Peter Man.’ ’’
THE NADAS ARE RUNNING NOW: The teams that played Monroe earlier in the year did not face these Tornadoes, who have Dynamite Dozen QB Charles Stafford as their main offensive weapon. But the return of sophomore running back Daryl Brown has changed Monroe’s offense because the Tornadoes can keep teams honest now.
Brown, who missed more than three games with an ankle injury, returned in the second half of Monroe’s game against Albany and rushed for 54 yards in one half.
He was even better in his first start Friday since the injury against Americus. Brown gained 98 yards on 19 carries, including 63 yards in the second half when Monroe went to its running game to control the game. He also caught four passes for 41 yards for a 139-yard night.
“Oh man, he is a big plus for us, a major plus,” Truitt said. “He has so much vision. He is small, but he can find the holes and get through there. He made some really good runs, and we were able to keep them (Americus) off balance because they didn’t know if we were going to pass or run.
“When he was hurt, we had to use our outside linebacker Devontay Stephens as our running back, and now we can keep him fresh to play defense and also run the ball. (Brown) gives us another dimension.’’
WESTWOOD STARTING NEW STREAK: Westwood had a 27 game-winning streak snapped Aug. 31 against Stratford Academy — a loss that ended more than two straight years of nothing but wins for coach Ross Worsham and his inspiring Wildcats.
Now Westwood is working on its next winning streak.
With the Wildcats’ dominating 42-0 victory against Sherwood on Friday, they increased their winning streak to five games.
“That was probably the most complete game we played (this year),” Worsham said. “We haven’t played bad, but we just hadn’t put it all together yet (before Friday). We have some young kids playing in some spots who are growing up, and they played well and got after it (Friday). We will need to be better next week.”
But the Wildcats’ newest winning streak will be put to a serious test Friday when they travel to Valwood and face the undefeated Valiants in a game that will likely decide the GISA Region 3-AA title.
Both teams are undefeated in the region, and both teams are riding massive momentum heading into the game.
“We gotta go to Valwood, and they have a mighty fine football team,” Worsham said. “They have beaten everybody they have played bad. They are big, fast, strong and athletic. It’s the total package. But our kids know how to win, and we will prepare and go over there and play hard. We are going expecting to win.”
Westwood, the two-time reigning state champs, has outscored its opponents 237-40 during its winning streak, while Valwood has outscored its opponents, 282-58, in six games.
“We just have to come out hitting against Valwood like we did (Friday) but even better,” said Westwood running back J.T. Edore, who had 156 yards and four TDs against Sherwood. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a close game no matter what happens.”
PICK CITY: Mitchell County’s secondary is full of ball hawks and it showed Friday in the Eagles’ 47-14 win against Terrell County. Mitchell’s Jocquil Chester, Gregory Florence and Tremel Emanuel came away with interceptions Friday. Florence took his back 28 yards for a score and Emanuel nearly did the same, setting up another touchdown.
Arguably the biggest threat in the secondary, Jaquan Williams, didn’t get one — and he wasn’t happy about it.
“He took my pick,” Williams said pointing to Chester, who just laughed off his fellow senior.
The Eagles needed a performance like that to get back in the Region 1-A title hunt after they were devastated following a 21-20 loss to Miller County two weeks ago in Camilla.
“It shows that we want to improve every day,” head coach Larry Cornelius said of bouncing back from the region-opening loss. “We still think about that Miller (loss), and it may cost us in the playoffs just because we don’t control our destiny at this point.”
Prior to Friday, Mitchell County (3-4, 2-1 Region 1-A) was ranked No. 22, according to the Georgia High School Football Daily newsletter, in the GHSA’s point-based system that will determine the Class A public school playoff seedings. Only 16 teams will make the public school playoffs, while 16 private schools will play their own playoff bracket to determine separate champions.
WEARY GREENWAVE: Terrell County needs a bye in the worst way. The Greenwave also need to renew the team chemistry they had in a three-game win streak before falling twice in Region 1-A play.
“We’re not trusting each other,” Terrell County senior lineman Micah Williams said.
The bye week couldn’t come soon enough, but the Greenwave will have to wait a week because they have another huge test at Miller County before the off week.
“It’s October,” Terrell head coach William Huff said. “October has always killed us.”
The Greenwaves took an 8-0 lead in the second quarter Friday before Mitchell County ran off 28 unanswered points to close out the half en route to its 47-14 win. Four turnovers and 14 penalties for 105 yards didn’t help matters.
Terrell (3-4, 1-2 Region 1-A) was ranked No. 28 in the Class A public school power rankings before Friday’s game. Only Miller County (No. 14) and Seminole County (No. 15) were in the Top 16.
Herald staff sports writers Mike Phillips, John Millikan and Matt Stewart contributed to this report