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Game of the Week: Chestatee ready to clash with Monroe Area for 8-AAAA championship
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Chestatee's Zac Cheshire runs the ball against Lumpkin County last Friday at War Eagles Stadium. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Chestatee at Monroe Area

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Purple Pit, Monroe

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Monroe Area, Matt Fligg

Records: Chestatee (7-1, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA); Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0)

Key players: Chestatee, Zac Cheshire (5-7, 150 Sr.); RB/FB Blake Buffington (5-5, 140 Sr.); TE/DL Khalil Cantrell (6-0, 260 Sr.). Monroe Area, WR Michael Gallup (6-3, 205 Sr.); RB Kwan Brooks (5-9, 175 Sr.); OL/DL Grayson Williams (6-5, 257 Sr.)

Football Previews: Week 11

Chestatee is acting like nothing out of the ordinary happened to Monroe Area last Friday.

In actuality, seven Purple Hurricane players were ejected from their 68-14 win over Madison County after an altercation between the two teams.

Due to Georgia High School Association rules, players involved in the fight have been suspended for tonight’s game against Chestatee (7-1, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA), which will decide the Region 8-AAAA championship. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Monroe.

It leaves several key players on the sideline for No. 4 Monroe Area (8-0, 5-0), which has hardly been challenged by any opponents this season.

The War Eagles want to be the first to do that, regardless of who’s eligible to play.

“What we can control is who we are and how we prepare, and our mindset,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said.

“What happened last week between Monroe and Madison is not a good situation, but we can’t control anything that came out of that situation. But what we can control is how we prepare this week and our attitude going into another big game.”

Among the Monroe Area players that will be sidelined is quarterback Stanton Truitt, a 1,000-yard rusher whose big play capabilities both on the ground and in the air has him headed to Auburn University next season.

According to a tweet by the Walton Tribune during last Friday’s game, Truitt was one of the seven players ejected from the game.

According to Section By-Law 2.70 of the GHSA Constitution, any athlete ejected from a game is automatically suspended for the following contest.

Chestatee may have dodged a bullet at the best possible time. With Truitt missing, the War Eagles’ powerful run defense will have to slow down the Purple Hurricanes’ backup quarterback in a game that will decide which team will earn a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs and get a smoother postseason ride.

Led by nose tackle Khalil Cantrell and defensive ends Rob Minor and Cody Humphries, Chestatee has allowed just 2.5 yards per carry this season, and has stopped opponents in the backfield an average of 6.9 times per game.

Their last three games have been especially good. Chestatee has allowed less than a yard per carry with the help of 27 tackles for loss and 16 sacks (22 on the season), which have resulted in -182 rushing yards.

The matchup almost looks favorable for Monroe Area’s opponent, a situation the Purple Hurricanes have likely never encountered this year.

“Monroe Area has a lot of speed, but we’re going to go out there and play our defense,” Cantrell said. “We’ve been playing great defense this year, and we intend on doing the same thing.”

The rewards Chestatee could reap from a win go far beyond the region title.

A victory would put the War Eagles in position to earn a single season program-best ninth win the following week against Madison County, while setting a new win streak record at eight games.

As for playoff positioning, Chestatee would earn its first-ever No. 1 seed playoff seeding and face the No. 4 team from Region 6-AAAA to open the playoffs on Nov. 15.

The War Eagles would then avoid a potential second-round matchup with top-ranked Sandy Creek or second-ranked Carrollton, which would face Region 8-AAAA’s No. 2 seed in the second round if both teams won their first-round games.

“It’s a big game because it’s the next one, and it’s a big because everything that’s riding on it,” Luttrell said. “This group has really been good at coming to work every day and showing up on Fridays to win big games.”

The scenario is identical to that of last season, when Chestatee needed to beat Monroe Area to win the region title. The War Eagles lost 35-14 in Gainesville, setting up a first-round matchup that eventually resulted in a 59-46 upset loss to LaGrange.

So far, this season almost mirrored 2012 for Chestatee — a loss to North Hall to open the schedule, then seven straight wins leading up to the Monroe Area game.

This is where the War Eagles want deja vu to come to an end.

“We had the same opportunity last year, and weren’t able to take advantage of it,” Luttrell said. “This has been our goal since the season ended last year. Our goal is to win the region and make a playoff run. Everything we set as a goal for this program is right here for us to take.”

Even if Chestatee loses to Monroe Area and defeats Madison County the following week, and the Purple Hurricanes lose to Eastside next week, the War Eagles would still end up as the No. 2 seed by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker.

Such was the case last year, when Eastside broke up Monroe Area’s perfect season with a 35-0 upset.

As a result, the War Eagles’ senior class, including all three defensive linemen, get one chance to win their first-ever region title tonight.

“It would be awesome,” defensive end Rob Minor said. “This is what we’ve been working for the last four years, and what we’ve been working for since the beginning the season.”