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Monroe rebounds, waxes Wilcox

Monroe running back Daryl Brown breaks off a big run Thursday night against Wilcox County. Brown scored twice in the first half, first on a goal-line rush and then on a 30-yard pass from QB Charles Stafford. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Monroe running back Daryl Brown breaks off a big run Thursday night against Wilcox County. Brown scored twice in the first half, first on a goal-line rush and then on a 30-yard pass from QB Charles Stafford. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Daryl Brown might’ve been the smallest player in either starting lineup Thursday night.

But that didn’t stop Monroe’s 5-foot-4 junior running back/receiver from playing like a giant against Wilcox County.

In a game that was expected to be a battle between star signal callers — Monroe senior Charles Stafford against Wilcox County sophomore Antwan Benjamin — it was Brown who stole the show, rushing for two touchdowns and catching another as the Tornadoes (1-1) bounced back from an ugly Week 1 loss to Class AA powerhouse Brooks County to beat Class A state power Wilcox County (1-1) at Hugh Mills Stadium on Thursday evening, 26-7.

“Every team we play sees me and they think they have an advantage on me because I’m so small,” said Brown, shaking his head in defiance. “But I don’t play like a small guy. I play big. People don’t know how electrifying I can be.”

Stafford, the Tornadoes’ star and reigning Herald Player of the Year, had an up close look all game at his diminutive playmaker. And what he did Thursday didn’t shock him a bit.

“Man, he might be pushing 5-4,” Stafford said with a laugh. “But he can do it. He plays bigger than he is, for sure. He did pretty good (Thursday night).”

Monroe’s defense did its part, too. The Tornadoes picked off two Benjamin passes — one by Monroe’s Brenton Truitt, the other by Cornelius Jenkins — and recorded two safeties. The first two-pointer came on Wilcox’s opening drive of the game, while the second capped a 10-point third quarter by the Tornadoes that featured Brown’s third TD of the game — a 15-yard run up the middle. Truitt, a DB, also finished with a sack and three tackles, and said he was thinking six points the entire way after his pick.

“I read (the pass) the whole way. The coaches told me what to look for, and I just read it,” said Truitt, a junior who is Monroe head coach Charles Truitt’s son. “I was definitely thinking six, but that was my first (career) interception, and I hope a got a lot more in my future.

“It was a good game, a good win. We really executed this week and came out ready to play.”

Brenton Truitt, like the rest of his teammates, also took time out to marvel at Brown’s big game.

“He’s a nightmare. I think that every day I go against him in practice. He’s quick, elusive — just a playmaker,” Brenton said. “He’s very important to this team.”

Brown did most of his damage in the first half with five catches for 76 yards and a 30-yard TD reception from Stafford, as well as a rushing score from four yards out. Believe it or not, Brown also had two TDs called back by penalties.

“We’ve got to clean up the mistakes,” said Stafford, who threw for 225 yards but also lumped himself in that category of those who need to fix errors after he had four picks. “We’ll fix that stuff, no doubt.”

Monroe controlled the game from start to finish, sans one big play by Wilcox County in the first half: a 57-yard TD pass from Benjamin to Quinn Tisdol on the first play of the second quarter. Otherwise, the Patriots were stuffed by Monroe’s defense all night, getting held to 90 yards of total offense in the first half and just 223 for the game. The Tornadoes, however, saved their best for last, stopping Wilcox County on its longest drive of the night to end the game late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots marched 65 yards and appeared to be headed for the end zone in an effort to make the score more respectable, but instead Monroe’s D stood on its head and forced the Patriots to turn the ball over on downs inside the Tornadoes’ red zone with 2:21 left to play.

It was a win sorely needed by The Herald’s No. 5-ranked team, which didn’t want to start its season 0-2 when it has aspirations of seeing it end in the Georgia Dome.

“The biggest difference from Week 1 to Week 2 was just practice. We came in this week (to practice) with the right mentality and we came out (to this game) with the mentality we weren’t going to lose. We couldn’t — not after we got blown out last week,” Brown said of the 48-14 thrashing Brooks put on Monroe last Friday. “We had the mentality to get that W, and that’s what we did.”

Brown, who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds, said the best is still to come from he and the Tornadoes, who will now gear up for their third straight tilt against a lower-classification state power next week at Fitzgerald.

The Purple Hurricanes just better hope they don’t lose track of Brown.

“Hard work and dedication,” Brown said when asked what his secret was to catching team’s off guard. “I try to make every play exciting and do whatever I can to help my team. That’s my secret.”

NOTES: Stafford stepped in as Monroe’s kicker this week after a woeful performance by the kicking game last week, and he was a perfect 2-for-2 on PAT attempts … Stafford also converted the Tornadoes’ two-point conversion on a pass to junior WR Antonio Gordon … The second Tornadoes safety was credited to the entire defense after a Wilcox snap deep in Monroe territory sailed out of the back of the end zone … Tornadoes’ WR Emmanuel Davis, a senior, also had a good game, catching seven passes for 66 yards.