Photo Courtesy Lacey Summers
MONROE, Ga. - Back to basics. That's been the recipe for success so far in 2017 for the Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes. It started with a weightlifting program implemented back in February by new head coach Kevin Reach.
"They started getting stronger and believing in themselves." said Reach. "They work hard and want to be good."
Reach spent seven years at Collins Hill where his teams made two quarterfinal playoff appearances and a semi-final run in 2010 which ended with a loss to eventual state champion Brookwood. He left a comfortable job in Gwinnett because Monroe Area was closer to home, and offered a different kind of challenge with a smaller student body to pick from- only 480 boys attend the Walton County school. Reach brought six coaches with him from Collins Hill, including his offensive and defensive coordinators, which has made the transition smoother in Monroe.
When the Purple Hurricanes upset rival Loganville on the road to open the season the team gained confidence and they haven't looked back, bowling over their next three opponents averaging over 40 points per game behind the solid play of junior quarterback Chandler Byron, who had six touchdown passes in a win over Social Circle. Reach says his signal caller's makeup reminds him of another player he coached at Collins Hill- current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
"He's a leader in the weight room and on the field." Reach told FOX 5 Sports, "He's not real vocal, but he reminds me of Heinicke is his demeanor. He picks things up easily and has a good football IQ."
Byron's solid play has helped Monroe Area start the season undefeated and has moved the Purple Hurricanes into the state rankings, climbing up one spot to number eight in triple-A this week.
On the defensive side of the ball, Javion Heard is all over the field. The preseason all-state selection has terrorized opposing quarterbacks with his size and speed much like Reach's former Collins Hill defensive standouts Emmanuel Belmar (Virginia Tech) and Tomon Fox (UNC).
"I think the crowds have been good at the games so far this season. There's a lot of pride and tradition here and they've supported us. They even had a parade for us at the beginning of the season." said Reach.
Thursday morning the Purple Hurricanes and their fans will continue another tradition, celebrating their second High 5 Sports Team of the Week award with a pep rally hosted by Paul Milliken of Good Day Atlanta. Monroe Area won TOTW honors back in 2012, but this year the fan base destroyed the competition on our High 5 Sports Facebook poll, beating their closest competitors, East Coweta, by over 3,000 votes.