Monroe Area and Stephens County entered Friday night’s showdown at the Purple Pit on a roll, both teams having won four straight games.
Something had to give.
The Hurricanes gave their best offensive effort of the season while the defense shutdown an explosive Indians offense for a 41-21 win.
Monroe’s offense totaled 438 yards, including 323 on the ground, while the defense held the Indians under 200 yards, including just 25 rushing, had three interceptions, and allowed just one touchdown.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Hurricanes as the Stephens defense forced a three-and-out and then blocked the ensuing punt, returning it 20 yards for a touchdown.
When they got the ball back, Monroe drove 67 yards in eight plays, culminated by a 19-yard run by quarterback Selatian Straughter to tie the game at seven.
But the junior signal caller, who missed last week’s game and most of the previous week with a shoulder injury, came up limping after the score. He never returned and finished with six carries for 64 yards.
Enter sophomore backup Jerimiah Anderson, who picked up where he left off during his first state last week in a 33-0 win over Lakeside-Evans.
He matched his three-touchdown game with another hat trick, all in the first half, to stake the Hurricanes to a 28-14 lead at intermission.
His first two scoring tosses went to Bryant Olson, the Hurricanes leading receiver, from five and four yards. But the third went to his favorite target Alan Jones.
The two, who connected for three scoring passes last week, added another on a 52-yard screen pass that Jones caught in the left flat and sprinted to the one before diving into he end zone.
Jones finished with 26 rushes for 114 yards.
The Indians scored their only offensive touchdown on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Ben Stowe to Gamarion Carter late in the second to carry momentum into halftime.
But the Hurricanes crushed any hopes of a comeback when Mason Byron picked off a pass and returned it 61 yards for a score early in the third.
Byron added an exclamation point for Monroe’s final points with a 58-yard touchdown run with a minute left in the game.
With the victory, Monroe won their fifth straight to improve to 5-1. But more importantly, they are now 1-0 in Region 8-AAA.
It was the 39th meeting between the two programs in a series dominated by the Indians, but the first since 2015 when both were members of 8-AAAA.
Now back together again in 8-AAA, the two are battling for one of the league’s four playoff spots.
The Hurricanes will travel to Commerce next Friday to face East Jackson in their second region game.