MONROE — Monroe Area’s dream season came to a nightmarish end Friday night with a 24-21 loss to Peach County in the second round of the state Class AAA playoffs at the Purple Pit.
The Hurricanes (11-1) entered the game as the top seed out of Region 8-AAA, ranked No. 1 in the state and a 25-point favorite over the Trojans out of Ft. Valley. But they finally ran into a team that could match their speed and intensity.
After scoring on its first two possessions to jump out to an early lead, the Trojans scored 24 unanswered. It would be all the points they would need as Peach shutdown the Hurricanes potent offensive attack.
Senior quarterback Selatian Straughter had a brutal career finale. He was held to a season low 15 yards, including three sacks. He passed for 161 yards.
Harassed all night by the speedy Trojans defense, he had to be helped off the field on the first play of the third quarter. He returned two plays later. But he was sacked to end the Hurricanes’ next-to-last possessions and came up favoring his shoulder.
It would be his final play as a Hurricane.
Meanwhile, a pair of Trojan underclassmen provided the spark for Peach. Sophomore quarterback Colter Ginn, making just his third start, passed for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
The final scoring toss went to freshman Isaiah Mitchell, a 34-yard strike on the Trojans’ first possession of the second half. He finished with three catches for 67 yards.
But his biggest play came in the first half when he returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to begin his team’s comeback.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Trojans’ first possession of the game, Monroe took over at the Peach 34 and went the distance in just six plays, sparked by a 44 pass from Straughter to Alan Jones, who finished with four catches for 80 yards. The senior quarterback ended the drive on a 7-yard run.
Peach responded with 13-play drive, but had to settle for a 31-yard Mason Maddox field goal.
The Hurricanes came right back, scoring in just four plays, finished off with a 23-yard scoring strike from Straughter to Jones on the first play of the second quarter to put Monroe up 14-3.
But then their troubles began.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mitchell made his first big play of the game on the kick return to make it 14-10.
Later in the second, Jones took a pitch left and ran down the sideline for an apparent 62-yard touchdown. But it was nullified by holding. Two plays later, Straughter was sacked and fumbled and the Trojans recovered at the Hurricanes 29.
Five plays later, Peach’s Ginn found running back Chris McMillian streaking across the middle for a 28-yard touchdown pass to put his team up for good.
Monroe got within three early in the third when junior receiver Jahlun Flud took a pitch from Straughter, rolled right, and connected with Jeremiah Anderson for a 28-yard TD.
But it would be their final points of the season.
It was a heartbreaking end to an outstanding season, in which the Hurricanes went unbeaten in the regular season, won the Region 8-AAA title, and ascended to No. 1 in a state poll for the first time in school history.
Peach (8-3) advances to the quarterfinals and will travel to Blackshear to face Pierce County.