Dougherty’s Robert Hicks dives to make a tackle on Monroe’s Devontay Stephens during the first quarter of Friday night’s game at Hugh Mills Stadium. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY -- It wasn’t the stat-filled, break-out game he was hoping for, but Charles Stafford made the plays he needed to make.
Equally important was Monroe’s defense that stepped up to shut down Dougherty’s offense for much of the game, en route to a 30-18 victory Friday night at Hugh Mills stadium.
The Tornadoes move to 3-3 on the year, while the Trojans remain winless at 0-6.
“Execution was a big key,” said Stafford, who shook off an early interception, passing for more than 100 yards to go with three touchdowns. “We had a good gameplan this week and we all executed on [that] gameplan. The [offensive] line did a great job of blocking and allowing me to sit back and make good [reads].”
Stafford was responsible for each of Monroe’s four touchdowns, first getting it done in the second quarter with his legs by bustling in from six yards out to give the Tornadoes their first points of the game.
The next drive he connected with Willie Jones on a fade route for an 18-yard score.
Unable to establish anything on offense and trailing 16-0, Dougherty caught a huge break right before halftime when Monroe’s Kimetric Parks lost the ball trying to field a punt. The Trojans recovered the ball 30 yards out from the pay dirt with a minute and a half to go.
But the Trojans’ inept offense reared its head again and failed to make the most of a great opportunity to turn the game around.
“We just have to punch it in; we had an opportunity on the goaline, but we wasted too much time and the clock ran out on us,” Dougherty head coach Corey Joyner said.
After subpar first-half performances both teams looked better after the intermission, trading scores for much of the third quarter. Sweeping to the right, LaDarrien Royal got the Trojans on the board with 61-yard touchdown run after their defense recovered a fumble.
The Tornadoes answered with a nine-play drive, capped off with Emmanuel Davis snagging a five-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
“Our offense did a good job, particularly in the second half when we were really able to score,” Monroe head coach Charles Truitt said. “Stafford did a good job of taking what the defense was giving us and our running back ran the ball hard, so we were able to keep them off balance.”
In his typical play-making fashion, Ricardo Sloan began his team’s next drive with a 25-yard reception thanks to some strong yards after the catch. Four plays later Royal made the highlights once again, this time dragging a host of defenders into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown run up the gut, bringing his team to within 12 points of tying the game, 24-12.
“We try to get the ball in his hands anyway we can because he is a great player,” Joyner said of Royal, who added another 100-yard game to his resume. “But we have to block better. One of their guys seemed to be in the backfield every time we snapped the ball, which disturbed a lot of the things we tried to do.”
Unfazed by seeing their lead trimmed in half, the Tornadoes put the ball back in Stafford’s hands with the hopes of him finishing the Trojans off. He did not disappoint as he hooked up with Devontay Stephens off a play-action touchdown pass up the middle for 16 yards.
“I saw him all the way but I had to first look the defense off,” Stafford said. “Once he got open I took it.”
Dougherty quarterback Michael Whatley, who was forced to scramble for his life throughout the game, made the final score a little more respectable as he converged on a key third down play late in the game, running in for a 21-yard touchdown.
But as was the case in other games it was too little, too late for the hapless Trojans.
“Right now we are not putting everything together,” Joyner said of his team. “When our offense scores our defense tends to give up a big play. But if we can ever put a drive together and then get a stop and play together on defense we will be a decent team.”