Friday night marked the 51st renewal of the longtime rivalry between Monroe Area and Morgan County at the Purple Pit, and the game reflected a style of play reminiscent of the old days.
Morgan County controlled the ball and the clock with a smash-mouth running game, but Monroe Area ultimately prevailed 13-9, thanks to special teams and a gritty defensive effort.
The Hurricanes displayed one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory, compiling just 15 yards rushing and three first downs while running only 43 plays from scrimmage.
As a result, the defense spent most of the game trying to slow down a Morgan County rushing attack that piled up 254 yards on 57 rushes.
Clinging to a slim four-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Hurricanes defense staggered onto the field after the offense went three-and-out for the second consecutive possessions.
From their own 42, the Bulldogs coasted to the Monroe 24 and seemed destined to score the winning points.
But senior linebacker Tyvonte Brooks, who had scored earlier on a fumble return, blitzed and took down Morgan quarterback D.J. Brooks for a three-yard loss. Three plays later, senior cornerback Darrel Smith batted down a desperation pass in the end zone, clinching the victory.
After accounting for seven touchdowns in the Hurricanes first two game, including three rushing and four passing, Monroe quarterback Selatian Straughter had a game to forget, rushing for just 18 yards on 10 carries and completing just six passes.
On the first play of the game, Straughter was intercepted by Morgan safety Noah Brown. Eleven plays later, the Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by senior kicker Lewis Jamarrion.
But it took just two passes to get the Hurricanes on the board. After stopping a Bulldogs 13-play drive late in the second quarter, forcing them to turn it over on downs, Monroe took over at its own 35.
On the first play, Straughter lobbed a screen pass to running back Alan Jones, who raced 26 yards to the Morgan 27. From there, Straughter connected with Bryant Olson on a 27-yard scoring strike, the senior wide receiver’s fourth TD reception of the young season, giving the Hurricanes a 7-3 lead at intermission.
That would turn out to be the lone offensive highlights of the game for Monroe. In the second half, they ran just 12 plays.
But the Hurricanes punt return unit came up with a huge play that ultimately provided the winning points.
After forcing a Morgan punt on its first possession of the second half, the Bulldogs kicker fumbled the snap and Brooks scooped up the loose ball and raced 60 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was no good but Monroe led 13-3.
Later in the fourth quarter, Morgan put together its best drive of the night, moving 80 yards on 15 plays, all on the ground and finished off by a 2-yard run by Smith. The PAT was blocked, preserving a four-point lead.
Just three plays later, the Bulldogs had the ball back again. But the defense made its game-saving stand.
Monroe will be off next week before facing Madison County the following Friday. The game against the Red Raiders replaces the previously scheduled game against Clarkston, which cancelled its season due to COVID-19.