Redhawks facing defending state champs
The defending 1AA state champions await Monroe High’s football team in Bryson City tonight.
The Redhawks (11-3), who have won 10 straight after starting the season 1-3, travel to Swain County (14-0) with a trip to the state title game on the line.
The Maroon Devils have outscored their opponents a combined 664-173 this season. Their offense averages 47.4 points per game while the defense gives up just 12.4 ppg.
"This is big time and we have to make sure we have our 'A' game," said Monroe junior tailback Tre Shun Wynn. "It's going to be our biggest challenge yet, but we feel like we can go up there and get a win."
Redhawks coach Johnny Sowell believes his team is ready.
“Our kids went up to Mount Airy last week and played in a pretty hostile environment, and I think it's going to be the same way this week," said Sowell. "Our kids handled last week pretty well, so hopefully we can do it again and take care of business."
Swain County junior quarterback Raymius Smith went over 2,000 passing yards for the season in his team’s win over West Wilkes in the second round of the playoffs.
Smith joins former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler as the only 2,000-yard passers in school history.
Swain County’s offense also features a pair of productive tailbacks.
Seniors Garrett Lane (5-7, 170), Matthew Maennle (5-11, 170) have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.
“From what we've seen on tape, they're going to run it more than they pass it," said Sowell. "They're going to give us a heavy dose of the run, but we feel like we're prepared for both."
On paper, the Maroon Devils are almost a mirror image of the Redhawks.
Monroe averages 42.3 points per game and gives up 14.3 points per contest.
Redhawks senior quarterback Quayshawn Chambers has passed for 1,263 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 1,080 yards and seven scores this season.
Chambers has been especially good in the postseason, going 16-of-21 for 354 yards and four touchdowns in three games. He ran for 101 yards and a score on six carries in last Friday’s quarterfinal win over Mount Airy.
Monroe has three other players with at least 600 yards rushing on the year, including sophomore tailback Chase Byrum, who has 754 yards and a team-high 14 touchdowns.
Junior running back Julius Stradford has 690 yards and 12 scores while Wynn has racked up 541 yards and 12 TDs.
"We've watched a lot of film and they're big up front, but we still haven't seen a team that can compare with our speed," said Wynn. "We just want to spread it out and make plays. Our O-line has to have their best game of the season."
Sowell agrees with Wynn.
"I think overall they have kids that can run, too, so it's going to come down to who can control the game up front," said Sowell. "They do a great job playing defense and their kids don't get out of position. Our kids just have to be ready to play and keep doing what got them here."