Defense makes the difference for Redhawks

There aren’t too many instances when a team runs only seven offensive plays in the first half of a game and is still successful. But that’s what happened for Monroe in last week’s 69-0 win over Kernersville Bishop McGuinness in the first round of the Class 1AA state playoffs.

The Redhawks built a 28-0 lead over the Villains by the time the Monroe offense ran its first play, thanks to three blocked punts and an interception, each of which was returned for a touchdown. Jeremy Hammond, Eric Heath and Jaqueis

Alsobrooks corralled the blocked punts for scores, while Hammond returned the interception for six points.

In all, Monroe forced seven turnovers and held the Villains’ Wing-T rushing attack to minus-12 yards total offense in the game.

“I think it came down to speed because we were able to do some things defensively before they had a chance to get (their offense) started,” said Monroe coach Johnny Sowell, who added that the defensive performance more than outweighed the fact that the Redhawks’ offense only was able to run 18 plays on the night.

“You do (want to see your offense get more work in a game) as a coach,” said Sowell. “But when (the defense is) performing the way it’s performing, you’re happy to see that.”

Receiver/defensive back Jaylen Barbour suffered an ankle sprain and is questionable for Monroe’s second-round showdown with East Surry on Friday, Nov. 9. But the Redhawks should get a spark from the return of defensive back Chris Rice, who saw limited action last week after undergoing two surgeries for an ankle injury he suffered before Week 2 of the regular season. Sowell said Rice should return to a full-time role this week.

“He’s ready to go on both sides of the ball,” said Sowell. “He’s back in the flow of things.”

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