When it comes to selecting his starting quarterback, Monroe Area head coach Kevin Reach is no respecter of class.
Three years ago, in his first season at the helm of the Hurricanes program, he promoted a junior over a returning senior to start under center. The beneficiary of the move was Chandler Byron, who went on to rewrite the school’s record book while becoming the most prolific rushing quarterback in state history.
Heading into last season, another rising senior who’d bided his time behind Byron appeared to be the heir apparent as the Monroe quarterback. But just two games into the season, Reach placed a sophomore in charge of the team’s offense.
“It’s a tough call,” Reach said of demoting an upperclassman. “Especially when it’s someone who’s worked hard and done everything right. But you have to go with the guy that gives you the best chance of winning.”
For the Hurricanes, that turned out to be Selatian Straughter, an untested but immensely talented athlete who had caught his coaches eye as the team’s junior varsity quarterback a year earlier.
“We knew he was good as a freshman,” Reach said. “But we had Chandler at quarterback, and we felt like he (Straughter) needed another year to improve.”
By the time he stepped behind center as the team’s full-time starter last year in the second game against cross-county rival Loganville, Straughter gave his coach no reason to regret his decision.
He completed 12 of 15 passes for 85 yards and rushed six times for 82 yards. But most importantly, he secured the win with a late touchdown pass.
“He’s at his best when the bullets are flying, when the lights are on,” Reach said of his quarterback. “He just oozes with confidence. The moment never seems too big for him.”
It’s a lesson Straughter said he learned from his predecessor.
“Even when things are going wrong, you’ve got to keep your cool and control the offense,” Straughter said.
By season’s end, Straughter had compiled Byron-like numbers. He passed for 1,631 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 838 yards and six scores.
With two more seasons to go, Straughter has his sights set on making his name prominent in both school and state record books.
“He tells me all the time he’s going to break Chandler’s record,” Reach said.
Certainly, he’s got the tools and the time. He’s got a strong and accurate arm and speedy and elusive legs. He’s also added a couple of inches and nearly 15 pounds to his frame.
Given the losses the Hurricanes suffered to graduation, he’ll be relied on more than ever this fall to run the offense.
“No doubt, our offense is centered around the quarterback,” Reach said. “I don’t think there’s too many teams with a phenomenal quarterback who haven’t had a chance to win. Of course, it helps to be surrounded by other players who can compliment you.”
Straughter has no doubts about his supporting cast this fall.
“We’ve got some young cats,” Straughter said. “But I think we have the same talent as last year.”
And Straughter is a perfect example of how well a young cat can perform.