MONROE The No. 16-seed Parkwood football team made a magical run to reach the 2AA West Regional championship game.
But the Rebels were no match for No. 2-seed Monroe in the much-anticipated Union County showdown Friday night, as the Redhawks rolled to a 48-20 victory.
Monroe forced four turnovers, including interceptions on the first two Parkwood possessions. The Redhawks jumped out to a 42-0 lead and never let the Rebels (8-7) get in the game.
Monroe (13-2) moves on to play High Point’s T.W. Andrews at UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium Friday night at 7:30.
“We challenged our defense tonight to come out here and do what they do best,” said Monroe football coach Johnny Sowell, whose team also beat Parkwood 46-7 on Oct. 25. “We know what it feels like to get this far and lose (Monroe lost in the regional final last year). We told our guys they had a second chance and they made the most of it.”
The Redhawk defense set the tone early on when Jaqueis Alsbrooks picked off Parkwood’s Grey Wyrick on the fifth play of the game.
But Parkwood returned the favor, when Justin Holbrook intercepted Monroe’s Zephaniah Wall on Monroe’s third play from scrimmage.
The Monroe defense turned up the heat again, forcing a fumble on the next Rebel possession, with Keenan Rivens recovering and returning it to the Parkwood 36-yard line.
Three plays later, Monroe’s Chase Byrum scored on a three-yard touchdown run to put his team up 6-0.
After Parkwood drove to the 50-yard line, the Redhawk defense struck again when senior Isaiah Thomas intercepted a Wyrick pass in the flat and took it 55 yards for a 12-0 lead.
“We knew that we had to come out tonight and get the job done,” said Thomas, of the Monroe defense. “Our defense has been the backbone of this team all year long. We wanted to come out here and make a statement.”
After a Parkwood three-and-out and a 12-yard punt, Monroe wasted no time on their next possession, using four plays with Byrum (47 yards rushing on 10 carries and two touchdowns on the night) capping the drive on the seven-yard touchdown run.
Monroe capped a dominant first half with Wall finding a wide-open Thomas on a 28-yard throwback pass for a 26-0 lead at the break.
The Redhawks made it 34-0 on their first drive of the second half when Wall found Julius Stradford on a screen pass, who took it 37 yards for a score.
Wyrick fumbled on his own two-yard line, setting up a Tre’Shun Wynn for a two-yard score and 42-0 lead. Monroe’s Jaylan Barbour capped the scoring with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Parkwood made a valiant run in the final two quarters, with Tre Butler (121 yards rushing on 22 carries on the night) scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run, Max Robinson on a 33-yard scoring run and Sam Mobley on a 74-yard pass from Wyrick, but it was too little, too late.
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