Redhawks reach semifinals, eye defending champs

The Monroe football team used its dominating rushing attack to top Mount Airy, 61-31, in the third round of the Class 1AA playoffs last Friday, setting up this week’s showdown with Swain County, the defending state champion and owner of a 25-game win streak.

Monroe (11-3) has won 10 consecutive games itself, and Redhawks coach Johnny Sowell said his team entered the state semifinal focused after a good week of practice.

“(Players) stepped off the bus focused and determined,” Sowell said. “You could tell they were ready to play.”

Sowell said the Redhawks’ prolific rushing attack, which averages more than 250 yards per game, starts up front. Sowell singled out linemen Dequavis Allen, Jamarcus Glenn, Raul Hernandez-Rodriguez, Malik Covington and Jared Marshall for getting the offense going. They’ve opened holes for running backs Julius Stradford (13 carries, 106 yards against Mount Airy), Tre’Shun Wynn (three carries, 25 yards) and quarterback Quayshawn Chambers (six carries, 101 yards).

Stradford has carried the load, rushing 33 times for 289 yards and six touchdowns in three playoff games. Sowell added that Stradford, Wynn and sophomore Chase Byrum, who all have at least 540 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, will continue to see touches depending on the situation.

“Those kids really understand (the concept of) team,” Sowell said. “They’re all good friends, and they don’t care who’s getting the majority of the carries. We play who’s been hot and who puts us in the best position to win, and they accept that.”

Sowell said that to beat Swain County (14-0), the Redhawks must play mistake-free football, something he thinks they can do.

“(The Maroon Devils) are good,” Sowell said. “We know what they’re going to do offensively and defensively, but they’ve won six or seven championships, and they’re the defending champions.

“In order for us to challenge them, we have to play like champions.”

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