Charlotte Christian head coach Jason Estep schedules difficult nonconference opponents for a reason – he wants his Knights to be challenged every time they take the field.
That certainly happened Friday night as No. 4 Christian fell behind No. 15 Monroe 13-0 early, then rallied to take the lead only to have to hold on until the final play to defeat the visiting Redhawks 35-27.
Monroe would strike early, taking advantage of a bad punt snap on Christian’s first possession inside its own 10, and quarterback Zephaniah Wall scored on a six-yard run on its third offensive play.
Monroe would again get the ball in Christian territory on its next possession thanks to a short punt, and Chase Byrum’s four-yard scoring run pushed the lead to 13-0 with 2:18 left in the first.
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But early in the second Christian stopped Monroe on a fourth down at the Knights’ 32. Elijah Deveaux would cap a 68-yard drive with a one-yard scoring play with 5:33 left to cut the deficit to 13-7.
In the final minute, a strange play turned the tide to Christian. Quarterback John Turley was picked off by Monroe at the Redhawks’ 10, but Christian’s Josh Broadway, the intended receiver, stripped the Monroe defender of the ball and recovered at the 11. On the next play, Turley hit Broadway in the back of the end zone with 16 seconds left and Christian led 14-13.
Trailing 19-14 late in the third, Jaylon McClinton made two huge plays for Christian. Facing a third down in the final minute, McClinton took a hand-off and broke numerous tackles for a 21-yard scoring run to give Christian a 21-19 lead.
“How about that?” Estep said of the plays by Broadway and McClinton. “Those are two seniors and leaders for us and they made some big plays tonight.”
On the next drive, Monroe was inside Christian territory, but McClinton picked off Wall at the 21 and went 79 yards for a score and, all of a sudden, Christian led 28-19.
Christian added a score to make the score 35-19 but Monroe wouldn’t quit. Wall went out with an injury but backup Rahmaad Sturdivant scored on a 34-yard run with 26 seconds left and converted the two-point conversion to close to within 35-27.
Monroe recovered the onside kick and drove to the 32 but Sturdivant was sacked on the game’s final play, giving Christian a hard-fought victory.