Chandler Byron takes snap against Jefferson
Monroe, Ga. - When asked how to sustain excellence in a high school football program, Monroe Area head coach Kevin Reach said players and coaches must stay grounded and never look ahead. Reach has only two years under his belt as the leader of the Purple Hurricanes (9-0), and they've both been excellent. In 2017, Monroe Area made it to the second round of the playoffs, only to lose to fourth-ranked Calhoun. So far this season, the team hasn't lost and already owns the 8-AAA region title thanks to last Friday's road win against Jefferson-one of four goals Reach set for them in the offseason.
"We wanted to be undefeated at home, which we'll do if we beat Franklin County next week," Reach told High 5 Sports. "We wanted to win all of our region games, be region champs, and finish the regular season 10-0."
A win over Franklin County (3-5) would accomplish all of those immediate goals, and set Monroe Area up for a deep run in the playoffs thanks to this year's tougher non-region schedule that included a 36-15 victory over AAA's then 6th-ranked Pace Academy Knights in week three.
"We needed to be more battle-tested," said Reach. "The non-region games we added this year helped us prepare for a tougher region schedule and hopefully make us tougher come playoff time. We competed well in the Corky Kell 7-on-7 tournament in the summer, and the guys said to themselves, 'hey, maybe we can do this'."
The Purple Hurricanes are the top scoring team in AAA, averaging 43 points per game behind the quarterback play of Chandler Byron, who scored a combined 49 touchdowns in 2017, and already has 40 combined scores this season. A surprisingly stout offensive line has paved the way for running back Jakia Thompson. The senior is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Reach's squad already has four shutouts, giving up just 74 points so far in 2018, even after graduating East Tennessee State signee Javion Heard, one of the state's best defensive ends. The Purple Hurricanes senior-laden defense relies on smart secondary play, and a group of linebackers who have played together for multiple years.
The Purple Pit will be filled to capacity as the Canes look to secure that undefeated regular season next Friday.For now, the student body will celebrate the team's second Team of the Week Trophy in as many years with Paul Milliken and the Good Day Atlanta pep team during Thursday morning's pep rally on the Monroe campus.