Monroe's run at first state title derailed in semifinals
A five-minute span at the end of the second quarter doomed Monroe High’s promising 2012 football season on Friday night.
During that critical stretch, the Redhawks watched their 21-point lead evaportate.
Rather than the Redhawks reaching the 1AA state championship game, Swain County will make a return trip after reeling off 28 unanswered points in the last five minutes of the second quarter in front of the home crowd.
The Redhawks took a 21-0 lead with 7:08 to play in the second after senior Jermany Hammonds hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior QuayShawn Chambers. But the Maroon Devils answered with four touchdowns over the last 4:52 of the half, including three in the final 1:52.
Swain (15-0) scored TDs off two Monroe turnovers just before the break, including one on a 23-yard interception return by senior Matt Maennle that proved to be the game-winner.
“That was tough, especially since we were up three touchdowns, but we went into halftime feeling like we were only down 7-0,” said Monroe coach Johnny Sowell. “From what we saw on film the second quarter was when Swain did a lot of their damage, and most of it was coming off the other team’s mistakes. That’s what happened to us.”
Both defenses tightened in the second half, but Monroe had some chances.
The Redhawks crossed midfield on two possessions in the fourth quarter.
On its last drive of the game, Monroe drove down to Swain County’s 9-yard line and with 1:21 left had a fourth-and-inches.
But the Redhawks fumbled the ball back to the Maroon Devils, who then ran out the clock.
“That was big-time tough,” said Sowell of the late fumble. “We felt like if we got the first down, then we had a good chance to score with four more plays inside their 10. We were moving the ball well. We knew if we scored we were going to go for two and go for the win. The kids fought hard all night, but we just came up a little short.”
Swain County is now 15-0 heading into Saturday’s state final.
Monroe had to play the entire second half without Chambers, who suffered a separated shoulder just before the break.
Chambers, who has committed to Duke University, was 9-of-13 for 122 yards with two touchdowns and one interception before the injury.
Junior Isaiah Thomas replaced Chambers and finished 4-of-7 for 54 yards.
“Any time you lose one of your better athletes it’s going to hurt, but Isaiah came in and did a great job,” said Sowell. “We moved the ball with him in the game and he made some good throws.”
Monroe has won at least 10 games two years in a row, capturing back-to-back Rocky River Conference titles along the way.
After going 10-4 with a state quarterfinal appearance in 2011, the Redhawks responded with a an 11-4 mark and a state semifinal appearance this season.
Monroe started 2012 with a 1-3 record, then won 10 straight before losing to Swain on Friday.
Three of the four teams the Redhawks lost to this season are playing for a state title next weekend, including Swain (1AA), Porter Ridge (4A) and Concord (3A).
“We started out 1-3, but we felt like we should have been 3-1 and then we went undefeated in the conference and went 3-1 in the playoffs, so overall we had a good year,” said Sowell. “We’re losing some good players but we have a lot of kids coming back.”
Odds and ends ...
... Hammonds had his 10th interception of the season in the first half on Friday, and junior defensive end Keennan Rivens had two fumble recoveries for MHS.
... Redhawks junior receiver Jaylan Barbour had a game-high seven catches for 87 yards. Barbour — who is consiering offers from South Carolina, Duke and UNC — finishes the season with 42 receptions for 528 yards and three TDs. He missed three games with a nagging ankle injury.
N.C. 1AA semifinal game
Swain County 28, Monroe 21
Monroe^0^21^0^0 - 21
Swain^0^28^0^0 - 28
M - Julius Stradford 12 run (Brandon Roddy kick)
M - Lavonte Baker 25 pass from Quayshawn Chambers (Roddy kick)
M - Jermany Hammonds 14 pass from Chambers (Roddy kick)
S - Greg Tisho 49 pass from Raymius Smith (Colyn Petty kick)
S - Matt Maennle 10 pass from Smith (Petty kick)
S - Garrett Lane 1 run (Petty kick)
S - Maennle 23 interception return (Petty kick)
Rushing: Monroe - Tre Shun Wynn 9-52, Stradford 8-29, Chambers 7-20, Chase Byrum 7-14, Isaiah Thomas 3-1; Swain - Blake Wright 14-124, Lane 16-95, Smith 6-16, TEAM 1-(-16).
Passing: Monroe - Chambers 9-13-1 122, Thomas 4-7-0 54; Swain - Smith 5-10-1 75.
Receiving: Monroe - Barbour 7-87, Hammonds 3-40, Baker 3-49; Swain - Tisho 3-61, Maennle 2-14.