MONROE — How many players does it take to replace a record-setting, All-American quarterback?
At Monroe Area, apparently, the answer is three.
The Purple Hurricanes put in three different athletes under center in the opening game against the Appalachee Wildcats, which was enough to see Monroe emerge victorious, 18-7.
Senior Emeka Okwudili got the start and was the first to score at the end of the first quarter on a 7-yard dash into the end zone.
Junior Mason Byron also saw a great deal of action, taking the role of his elder brother, departed star Chandler Byron, and he scored as well, punching in a touchdown run from 1 yard out late in the second quarter.
Okwudili took over for the 2-point conversion attempt, however, and was intercepted in the end zone for no points — one of three interceptions he recorded on the night.
In the second half, Monroe tried a third quarterback, sophomore Salation Sraughter, and while he failed to reach the end zone, he led the way on the final, game-winning drive, sharing ball-carrying duties with junior running back Zay Williams, who scored on a 10-yard touchdown run.
If the quarterbacks all had their moments to shine, the rest of the team struggled at times. The special teams saw two bobbled snaps and a failed two-point conversion, as well as a missed 25-yard field goal, while the punting team had a few short kicks.
The secondary also struggled to contain the Wildcats’ passing game on several major plays, including Apalachee’s lone score, a 51-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first half, as well as several first down conversions late in the fourth quarter for one last-ditch scoring effort before Monroe’s defense stiffened up to preserve its 18-7 victory.
Monroe will need to address such issues quickly, as it faces cross-county rival Loganville next week in the newly dubbed “Freedom Bowl,” a game with significant bragging rights on the line.