Johnny Sowell’s goals are straightforward: “Have fun and win games.”For the last decade, the Monroe football coach and his team have enjoyed themselves. The Redhawks have averaged nearly nine wins per season.Last season, the team was one win from the 1AA state title game. Then, they watched a 21-0 lead turn into a 28-21 loss to Swain County in the Western Regional final.“Our first goal every year is to win the conference title. From there, we hope to make a run in the playoffs,” Sowell said.His teams have won three of the last four Rocky River Conference crowns. “To make it that far (last year in playoffs) and lose just hurt,” Wynn said. “We’re definitely not satisfied, and it almost felt like we lost in the first round. We are even more hungry to get back to the championship game.”Monroe will have to reach that goal as they move back to class 2A with a conference that now includes Mount Pleasant, Parkwood, Monroe, Forest Hills, Central Academy and West Stanly.Monroe will center its attack on what was one of the best running games in the state last year with seniors Julius Stradford (1,000-plus yards rushing) and Wynn (700-plus yards rushing), and junior Chase Byrum (1,000-plus yards rushing).Stradford, Wynn and Byrum all have the potential to dominate a game and inspire each other on a daily basis.“We compete with each other every day, even in practice,” Wynn said. “But that just makes us better as a team. We know if we are at our best, it’s going to be hard to stop all three of us.”The rushing attack should help ease in a new quarterback. There is a four-man competition with senior Isaiah Thomas, junior Rahmaad Sturdivant, sophomore Jaylen Nixon and freshman Zephaniah Wall.Whoever wins the quarterback job will have a big-time target in Jaylan Barbour, who already has more than 12 Division I college football offers.The Redhawks offense also will benefit from an experienced line, which features all-conference seniors Dequavis Allen, Jamarcus Glenn and junior Malik Covington.The Monroe defense should be a big strength, too, as eight starters are back – including six of the front seven.Allen, Covington, Jeremy Brown (5-foot-10, 175) and Montez Rorie (5-foot-10, 220) make an imposing front four; Ashad Byrd (6-feet, 175), Stradford and Thomas form the linebacker corps.The secondary also has talent with Wynn, the lone starter, but multiple players competing for the other three starting spots.Sowell doesn’t back down from scheduling, and the Redhawks’ nonconference run is brutal with Sun Valley, Weddington and defending NCISAA 3A state champion Charlotte Christian.After that, Monroe will look to lay claim to its third straight conference title.
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Monroe football hopes to grind out title
Monroe High Coach: Johnny Sowell, 10th Year (Career Record at Monore: 76-41). 2012 Record: 11-4, (7-0, Rocky River conference champions, 1AA state semifinalist). Starters Returning: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense). Top Players: • WR, Jaylan Barbour, 5-foot-10, 170, Sr.: Has multiple D-I offers including Duke, East Carolina, UNC, N.C. State, South Carolina and West Virginia. • RB/DB, Tre’Shun Wynn 6-feet, 175, Sr.: Two-way standout has over 700 yards rushing; offers from Appalachian State, UNC Charlotte, Duke and East Carolina. • OL/DL, Dequavis Allen, 6-foot-3, 303, Sr.: Has the size and talent to dominate on sides of the ball; interest from Appalachian State, N.C. Central and South Carolina State. • LB, Ashad Byrd, 6-feet, 175, Sr: Had over 100 tackles last season; interest from N.C. Central, S.C. State. Can’t miss games: at Weddington Sept. 13; Charlotte Christian Sept. 20; Forest Hills Nov. 8.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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