ALBANY – Monroe’s 48-14 whipping it received at the hands of an emotionally charged Brooks County team last Friday was not the 2013 debut Tornadoes coach Charles Truitt was looking for.
But with every new week and new opponent comes a chance at redemption, and Monroe will get its chance tonight against Wilcox County when it plays in the first Thursday game of the season at Hugh Mills Stadium.
Another week, another lower classification powerhouse for Herald No. 5 Monroe (0-1) – but that’s just how Truitt wants it.
“They’re big – bigger than us up front, probably – and this is not (a typical Class A team),” Truitt said of the Patriots, who beat a solid Wilkinson County team, 41-32, in their opener last week. “They spread it out and can put up points just like our offense. And we’re ready to get back onto the field (after last Friday). We need this game, and we’re glad we’re playing a day early. Our kids want that challenge.”
Truitt also wants improvement from both sides of the ball, but mostly from his offense, which stayed with Brooks County last Friday — for a quarter, that is. Once Monroe tied the game at 14-14 in the first half, Brooks County — which has dedicated its season to three of its former players who died in a car accident during the offseason — took the very next kickoff back for a score and never looked back. The Tornadoes’ high-powered offense didn’t find the end zone or the uprights again, and the TD return was the moment when everything went downhill, said Monroe RB/WR Daryl Brown, who caught the game’s first two TDs.
“That kickoff (return) broke our backs,” he said after the loss last Friday. “Things that affect the defense have a way of affecting the offense, and that did. We were never the same again.”
Truitt agrees it was a turning point his young team didn’t handle very well.
“The wind just went out of our sails. It took everyone – offense and defense – out of the game. We didn’t drive down the next possession and score, and we really got down on ourselves,” he said. “And when you have a young team (for the most part), things like that can happen. But we’ve worked on that this week – told the kids they have to keep fighting even when something like that happens – and I truly believe we’ll be a better team that executes more this week.”
Stafford, The Herald’s reigning Player of the Year, finished with a very un-Stafford-like 215 yards passing and those two early scores. But he was ineffective from there, and he and Monroe’s receivers seemed out of rhythm for much of the game.
Chock that up to a bad night – against a good team – is all, says Truitt.
“Charles is a gamer, and we know we have to ride him until our defense catches up,” he said. “He’ll bounce back. Trust me.”
BUSY WEEKEND AT HUGH MILLS: Tonight’s first Thursday game at Hugh Mills Stadium between Monroe and Wilcox County marks a busy weekend at Albany’s public school football complex.
On Friday, Herald No. 2 Albany (1-0) will host No. 1 Lee County (2-0) in this year’s first Fab 5 Poll showdown betweens Nos. 1 and 2. And it’s a game that should draw just as many folks from Leesburg on the visitor’s side as it will from the Good Life City.
Then Saturday, Dougherty will search for its first win of the season against Westside, Macon (1-0), which is coming off a 50-13 walloping of Central, Macon. Ironically, that’s the school former Dougherty coach Jesse Hicks left two years ago to take over.
The Trojans are coming off a 55-6 loss to Lee County in their opener last week.
It should also be noted that all Thursday and Saturday games at Hugh Mills this season will start at 7 p.m., while Friday games will begin at the normal 7:30 p.m. slot.
SEMINOLE’S BIZARRE WIN: In the 42 years Alan Ingram has been a football coach, he said he’s never seen anything like it – and he probably never will again.
Five minutes into the Indians’ 2013 season opener against Early County last Friday, the game was delayed due to lightning. A two-hour delay, to be exact.
But instead of waiting it out like both head coaches wanted, the officials decided to postpone the game.
Well, sort of.
“The rules say that since we’re in different classifications, you can’t restart the game where it was postponed — you had to start it over,” said Ingram, whose team won, 14-13, after being shut out the entire game before scoring late twice in the fourth to win. “So they sent everyone home – and there were a lot of people who came to see that game – and told us to come back (Saturday) to start it over again. In my 42 years, that was a first. I’ve been in long rain delays and had a hurricane postpone a game or two, but I’ve never seen that.”
Ingram said the unexpected layoff reflected in how both teams came out and played 24 hours later.
“Both teams started the game playing real well Friday, and then they let these kids go home – gave them a free night off, so there’s no telling what they all got into – and when we came back Saturday, both our teams stunk up the joint,” the coach said with a laugh. “They had seven fumbles and lost six, and we picked off a pass late in the game. And we had four fumbles and lost three. It was ugly, and it was sloppy.”
Early not only raced out to a 13-0 lead, but it had several chances to pull away and go up by 20 or more points. But miscues, cough-ups and botched snaps hurt the Bobcats, who let Seminole hang around. And the Indians made them pay.
Javonte Smith scored from one yard out with 10 minutes left in the fourth, and following a pick by the Seminole defense, the Indians were driving with a chance to tie or take the lead with five minutes to go.
Enter Alex Fudge, the 100-pound sophomore quarterback who got beat up Early’s defense for the first three quarters.
“Early brought the house at him, and he made some (rookie) mistakes,” Ingram said. “But he made up for them.”
Fudge found receiver Danny Rambo Jr. from 40 yards out on a pass Ingram said was “absolutely perfect and on the money.” Matthew Williams added the second of his two perfect PATs, and the Indians suddenly found themselves ahead in a game they’d trailed for nearly the entire night.
“I don’t know that either of us had any business winning that game as sloppy as we both were,” said Ingram, whose team won its first season opener since 2007 when it beat Berrien, 33-0. “But we’ll take it.”
Ingram, whose Indians next faces Turner County (0-1) on the road Friday, says he will likely burn last weekend’s game tape — and he likely hopes this article is the last time it’s ever mentioned.
“I can’t bring myself to even look at it,” Ingram said. “Between the weather, the delay and all the mistakes, we just want to move on.”